In our part of Essex many children travel 30 minutes to school - to selective, independent and faith schools.
They don't tend to socialise after school so much as at primary school because they are busier - after school activities and homework. Mine tended to arrange to see friends at the weekend instead.
If your child is keen on extra- curricular activities then there is an issue of whether there would be transport home later in the afternon / evening.
In some ways having different groups of friends at home & school can be helpful - if you are having problems with one you still have the other!!
If you think your child would be mre suited to the selective school then he will probably be happeir there and more likely to make friends - he may find as they get older he has less in common with less academic children.
Whatever groups they are in mine always seem to end up making friends with other 'brighter' children - just somehow on a simlar wavelength I guess.
My experience is that the distance is more of a trila for Mum than child - you are the one who will end up doing ferrying etc & depending on other children / work etc this is not always possible.
Many children enjoy the school bus journey with friends - or use car journey to learn spellings/ tables/ French vocab etc.
A lot of thoughts
Hope it helps with your deliberations.