Commuter numbers soar in East

SHARP increases in the number of commuters travelling daily to London from Suffolk and Essex can be revealed today.

Craig Robinson

SHARP increases in the number of commuters travelling daily to London from Suffolk and Essex can be revealed today.

The figures, which shows thousands of extra journeys are being made every day, have already prompted calls to ensure commuters still play a full part in community life.

Mid-Suffolk in particular has seen an influx of workers travelling to the capital, while in Essex - where numbers are traditionally high - the rate is also on the up.

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A better quality of life, lower house prices and a change in working patterns have been put forward as reasons behind the increase.

The study, carried out by Savills, is based on the number of people buying rail season tickets to London for 2006/07 as compared to 2004/05. It shows:

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- There were 788,176 commuter journeys from Ipswich station in 06/07 - around 3,031 a day and up 37% from 04/05.

- From Stowmarket there were 201,996 commuter journeys in 06/07 - 776 a day, up 44%.

- From Diss there were 119,766 commuter journeys - 460 a day, up 95%.

- Colchester had 2.3m commuter journeys in 06/07 - 8,846 a day, up 4%.

- Chelmsford had 4.1m commuter trips - 15,769 a day, up 6%.

Wil Gibson, chief executive of rural charity Suffolk Acre, said the trend of commuters moving to the countryside would continue.

“The key is ensuring that those people are still playing a full part within their community,” he said.

“A lot of people do want to be socially active - after all they've made a conscious effort to move to that area.

“However, while large communities are being developed at growth points in Ipswich, Stowmarket, Sudbury and Colchester, we do not build the infrastructure that is necessary.

“Local authorities need to invest in community engagement and get more people involved - at a time when village pubs and shops are closing this is becoming more and more important.”

Douglas Carswell, Conservative MP for Harwich, said he believed there were a number of reasons that were prompting more and more people to commute to London from the villages and towns of Tendring.

He said: “It must be having an impact, and because more and more people travel longer distances it makes more of a difference.

“Time once spent with the family or doing an activity in a local community is now spent sitting on a train.”

John Jowers, Essex County Council's head of localism and planning, said the recently formed Rural Commission had been set up to look into such issues.

Mr Jowers said: “Are rural villages only affordable for commuters? What happens to locals? Houses are unaffordable for kids whose families have been there for generations.

“We can't just expand villages instantly, but what we can do is provide rural jobs, rural housing for all levels of society.”

Lucian Cook, head of residential research at Savills, said: “It's much more expensive to do a shorter commute so it's pushed people out.

“The level of commuting in Essex has traditionally been very high but these areas are now reaching their capacity and people are tending to move further out to other places such as Suffolk.”

“It's a trade off between travel time, which people seem willing to endure, and house prices.

“It's also driven by the fact that people are able to work in London for two, three or fours days a week and can spend the rest working in their homes.”

He said there was a strong correlation between house prices and the number of commuters in that area - with money from London pushing property costs up and up.

A spokeswoman for National Express East Anglia - the region's train operator - said the company has delivered an expanded train service running into London which reflects a growing market need.

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