Live near the River Thames: number of river bus commuters in London set to swell with new waterfront homes near piers from Woolwich to Battersea


London’s river bus services are used by about 10,000 people every day and that number is set to swell this month when Royal Wharf Pier, the longest in the capital, opens for business.

Bringing the total number of commuter piers in London to 23, the people served by Royal Wharf Pier will include residents of the 3,500 new homes being built at the Royal Docks.

Matt Johnson, sales manager at Royal Wharf, says: “Given the choice, travelling on the river into central London is a much more desirable commute than taking the Tube or train.”

It is not the fastest or the cheapest commute but if you have the time and the money, you get a fabulous journey past some of the great sights of London — with a coffee in the morning and a relaxing drink at night. 

Six river bus routes run from 22 piers between Putney and Woolwich, and about 10,000 people use the services each day. 

Departures are every 20-40 minutes (thamesclippers.com).

You can make individual journeys on a river bus — single fares start at £4.40 — or invest in a season ticket and use your Oyster card. 

An annual all-zones pass costs £2,096.65. If you also have a Transport for London travelcard you will get a one-third discount. 

No one needs to miss out on their morning coffee either, as the services have on-board catering with hot drinks and — presumably for the homeward journey — a licensed bar.

The river bus ride from Woolwich to Canary Wharf takes half an hour. A journey from London Bridge to Putney takes 48 minutes.

The Thames Clipper services, which celebrate 20 years of operation this year, carried 4.2 million passengers last year.

The service is likely to be extended in the future, says Thames Clippers, which runs London’s river bus commuter services.

The firm is in discussions with Gravesham council about adding a stop at Gravesend, and there are also talks about extending the service to the Barking Riverside regeneration site. 

Closer to the centre of town, Thames Clippers is hoping to launch a zero-emission electric ferry for the hop between Rotherhithe and Canary Wharf. 

The development of London’s river bus services is inextricably linked with the development of new homes.

Housebuilders are frequently required to help fund new piers and services as a condition of planning consent. And the opening of Royal Wharf Pier coincides with a flush of new homes going on sale up and down the river. 

East London river homes: from Canary Wharf to Woolwich

Canary Wharf

At Canary Wharf 3,600 new homes are being built on the Canary Wharf Estate, shifting the local balance away from offices for the first time since the area was developed in the Eighties.

The first site, a 42-storey tower, 10 Park Drive, appears to have gone down well with buyers despite steep price tags.

The last 75 homes of a total of 345 went on sale late last month. Prices start at £880,000. Call 020 7001 3800.

Surrey Quays

At Surrey Quays most of the new homes are in the future. Housebuilder British Land owns a 46-acre development site and is planning a £4 billion project featuring 3,000 homes.

There will also be two million square feet of workspace, plus a million square feet for shops, leisure facilities, restaurants and entertainment. Southwark council is currently considering the proposals.

Royal Docks

At the Royal Docks a £3.7 billion rebirth is just beginning. Over the next few years this defunct industrial site will start to transform into a modern new neighbourhood with bars, restaurants, public squares and gardens.

There will be offices, galleries and cultural venues, sporting facilities, new schools and — of course — new homes.

At Ballymore’s landmark Royal Wharf, overlooking the Thames Barrier, a 40-acre wasteland will eventually contain 3,385 riverside properties with homes for an estimated 10,000 Londoners, as well as a market square lined with bars, restaurants and cafés, and a high street of shops.

Residents will also have a leisure centre, while almost half of the site is dedicated to open space.

The latest tranche of three- and four-bedroom mews house-style homes went on sale last month, priced from £725,000 (royalwharf.com).

Next month buyers will be able to take their first look at Traders Quarter at Royal Wharf, by Notting Hill Genesis. The one-, two-, and three-bedroom flats will be sold on a shared-ownership basis.

Prices start from £94,375 for a 25 per cent share of a one-bedroom flat, or £121,875 for a 25 per cent share of a two-bedroom flat (nhgsales.com).

Woolwich

At Woolwich yet another massive regeneration has already reshaped a section of the river since work began 13 years ago.

Berkeley Homes donated £250,000 to subsidise the riverboat service to Royal Arsenal Riverside in its early years.

The current phase of homes at this reboot of a historic munitions plant is Navigator Wharf, where apartments overlooking the Thames are priced from £480,000 (berkeleygroup.co.uk). 

Amazing views and reliability: Sophie Bradley commutes to the City by river bus with her pet spaniel, Amber

Sophie Bradley moved to Royal Arsenal Riverside eight years ago with her husband Colin Goad and their King Charles spaniel, Amber.

All three use the river bus to commute. Sophie, 47, is a social media consultant and needs to be in the City up to three times a week. Amber comes to work with her and they make the 35-minute trip by boat. 

“It is the nicest way to commute,” says Sophie. “It is so calming and all the staff are really, really welcoming and kind.”

Colin, 43, head of creative in a City branding and campaigns company, also uses the river bus.

Sophie finds it easy to plan her journeys according to what she says is a very reliable timetable, rather than simply making for the Tube station. 

“The boats always run, whatever the weather,” she says. “You can depend on them.”

Other reasons why she opts to commute on the Thames are the “amazing” views, and the fact that she arrives at work feeling calm and unflustered — it’s the perfect start to the day.

West London river homes: from Putney to Chelsea 

West London’s river bus service is a little less linked to regeneration, since it passes through some of the capital’s established suburbs, including Putney and Wandsworth.

Battersea

Close to Plantation Wharf Pier, Battersea, buyers could really take the whole life afloat thing seriously.

Sotheby’s International Realty is selling a floating home that’s a world away from most people’s idea of a houseboat, at Riverside Quarter moorings in SW18.

The 2,400sq ft boat with three bedrooms, sundeck and roof terrace is £1.75 million (sothebysrealty.co.uk).

Fulham

Around Chelsea Harbour are new homes more suited to landlubbers, including at luxurious King’s Road Park, formerly Fulham Gas Works.

Prices start at £655,000 and the many extras include a garden, bar, spa, and two cinemas. There will be more bars plus new restaurants on the 16-acre site (berkeleygroup.co.uk). 

Chelsea

For a more intimate vibe and easy access to Cadogan Pier, 100 Sydney Street in Chelsea might be just the thing for buyers with plenty of cash to splash.

The boutique apartments are priced from £5.75 million for a two-bedroom home (100sydneystreet.co.uk). For that you get high ceilings, high spec and a great location just off King’s Road.



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