EAST TILBURY There are strangely rural, long-forgotten pockets in this town. Around quiet corners you come suddenly upon dirt tracks that open up long walks beside the Thames. The Bata shoe company was started here by Czechoslovakians, who built their own distinctive 1930s flat-roofed houses, schools and cinema, now much admired and designated a conservation area. The factory has closed, but is preserved, and many of the houses have been sold on the open market. The old Bata office block has been converted into flats. A three-bedroom terraced house here costs about £150,000, but you can also buy a four-bedroom detached house from about £240,000. The Lakeside shopping centre at Thurrock has sucked much of the retail energy from these nearby areas. Modernisation came late to this line, the old timber platform in the station has been replaced, the manually operated level-crossing gates now work automatically, and there has been a £300m investment in carriages.
Commuters used to call it the Misery Line but a great deal of money has been spent on track and signalling improvements. Meanwhile, overcrowding has eased as passenger numbers have dropped from 165,000 per week to 125,000 since more people work from home for one or two days a week or opt to travel by car.