Heathrow Express has to cut off-peak fares, to try to smooth demand. Future threat from Crossrail?


Heathrow Express peak fares increase by almost nine per cent

by JAMIE MICKLETHWAITE (Evening Standard)


A standard one-way ticket Paddington station to Heathrow has gone up from £22 to £24, and a business class ticket fare has gone up to £32 from £30.

But off-peak return fares on the high-speed rail service will soon be reduced from £36 to £25.

A Heathrow Express spokeswoman said it is hoped that the fare increased will reduce congestion by encouraging people to travel at off-peak times.

Heathrow Express director Fraser Brown said: “Heathrow Express is the quickest way to get from central London to Heathrow and is well regarded by passengers who score it highly for customer satisfaction.

“It is an increasingly popular way to get to the airport and these changes will continue to protect the great service we give our passengers.”

The Heathrow Connect service, which also runs services from Paddington, offers single fares of £10.20, and the Underground fare for the same distance during peak times is £5.10.

Last year, Heathrow Express was forced to drop its ‘every 15 minutes’ slogan when a customer rightly pointed out that the frequency falls to once every half hour later in the day.




Heathrow passengers have other ways of getting to the airport. The Heathrow Connect train from Paddington costs £10.20 each-way, travel on the London Underground costs up to £5.10 each-way, while National Express coach services start at £6.

It should be noted, however, that there are no rail or Underground services to or from Heathrow between midnight and around 4.45am.


Heathrow Express fleet withdrawn indefinitely

2.6.2016 (Rail News)

THE premium fare train service to Heathrow Airport will be operated by substitute rolling stock until further notice, after depot staff carrying out routine maintenance on Sunday reportedly discovered a crack in an underframe which the operator has described as a ‘structural defect’.

The Class 332 fleet has operated Heathrow Express since the service began in 1998. The units were supplied to BAA after a contract had been agreed with a joint venture between Siemens and CAF, and built by CAF at Zaragoza in Spain. Engineers from both companies have arrived at Old Oak Common depot to help investigate the fault.

The sudden withdrawal of the entire fleet has disrupted airport train services. Parallel Heathrow Connect, which provides a stopping service at lower fares, has been withdrawn so that its Class 360 units can be ‘borrowed’ for the express services.

Some additional GWR trains are running to compensate for the loss of Heathrow Connect between Paddington and Slough, and Connect passengers from Paddington who have already bought tickets can use Express services instead.

Local passengers to the airport are being advised to use Route 140 buses from Hayes & Harlington station, while Connect tickets are also being accepted on the Piccadilly line.

It is too soon to say what the outcome of this emergency action will be, although the situation may well last for some time.

Heathrow Express said: “Following investigation, a fault – a structural defect on the underside of the carriage – was found on some Heathrow Express trains. They have now been taken out of service for the foreseeable future, and will undergo further examination and maintenance work. Passengers can still reach the airport using the Heathrow Express as a 15-minute service is being maintained using alternative trains.”

Heathrow Express has apologised for the problem and cut the price of its tickets, partly to reflect the lower standards on board the Class 360s. A single has been reduced from £22 to £17 and returns are also cheaper, at £28.

HEX director Fraser Brown said: “The safety of our customers and colleagues remains our top priority. We apologise for the inconvenience this has caused so far, and assure passengers that we are doing everything we can to return to running a full and safe service, as quickly as possible. We would like to thank all our customers for their patience.”

The problems may even pose a question mark over the future of Heathrow Express, which is set to be challenged by Crossrail in 2018.

Heathrow Airport Limited has tried to impose track access charges for the use of its infrastructure, but the Office of Rail and Road has provisionally ruled this out. An industry consultation is underway.




Part of an article by Christian Wolmar, including a section on the threat of Crossrail 2 to the Heathrow Express:


This raises the question about the long term viability of the Heathrow Express. It is, in fact, the biggest open access operator on the railway and is run by the airport owner, Ferrovial. Its 25 year deal for track access, however, runs out in 2023, four years after the introduction of Crossrail which will also go to the Airport. The Heathrow Express managing director, Keith Greenfield, is publicly confident that the competition will not affect his service, telling a local paper recently that: Without doubt Crossrail will bring new competition but there are plenty of ways in which we will be able to remain distinctive.

Well yes, price is one of them and I suspect that Greenfield privately is quaking in his boots over the future of Heathrow Express. Crossrail will have the fantastic advantage of bringing people from all over London direct to Heathrow in journey times only a bit longer than Heathrow Express and far cheaper. While the fares structure has not yet been announced, it will greatly undercut the £21 currently charged by Heathrow Express. No one will bother getting off at Paddington, trudging upstairs, and paying £21 extra for the pleasure

There is already a cheaper alternative, the Heathrow Connect service operated jointly by Great Western and Heathrow Express. Fares are half the Express service and the journey takes 10 minutes longer, 25 minutes rather than 15. Now I wonder how many people knowingly take the Heathrow Express because they value the 10 minutes it saves at £10 – in other words, £1 per minute or £60 per hour. According to the company, 30 per cent of users are leisure travellers. Surely all those holidaymakers arriving on red eye flights for a few days in London would happily forgo those ten minutes and save themselves £20 per couple? I suspect that many people using the Express service are the victims of the tacit withholding of information by Heathrow Express.  Imagine if there were signs up at Paddington on the Heathrow Express platforms and, especially, at the airport saying ‘It’s £10 cheaper by Connect’. (In economics terms, they are the victims of market imperfections because they do not have perfect knowledge.) A similar subterfuge, incidentally takes place at Gatwick where Gatwick Express tickets are sold to unknowing arriving tourists who are in no particular hurry to get to London and, frankly, are being rooked. (especially since it is now not even a dedicated Gatwick service any longer).

Indeed, Greenfield and his colleagues are already aware that the days of Heathrow Express’s business model based on premium pricing are numbered. Recently, for the first time, the company has started offering discounted fares (only a fiver off a £34 return or £6 off a single actually so don’t all rush) for advance bookings.

Therefore, the value of maintaining a separate Heathrow Express service after the arrival of Crossrail is dubious. Is it really right that such an expensive link is maintained to the airport, deterring many travellers from using it and taking up so much of the capacity at Paddington. It is maintained by a subterfuge which fools people into paying a premium price when a much cheaper alternative is available.

Scrapping Heathrow Express would free up a lot of train paths at Paddington and McTaggart, who has long complained about the reduction in fast trains to Slough, has an eye on them.

…………. and it continues  ….



A comment here on Heathrow Connect says:

“The Heathrow Connect isn’t used just to get people to and from intermediate stations and the airport, it’s also heavily used by local people to travel between communities not served the the tube and Central London.

“In the mornings the train is so crowded that people regularly get left behind on platforms. Now GWR has put on a two-carriage once-hourly service between Paddington and Hayes cutting the frequency in half and capacity by about three quarters.

“Their lack of recognition of the importance that local people place on the service is no surprise at all. The Connect is frequently cancelled if the Express is running late to get the Express back on schedule.   The sooner the route is taken over by Crossrail the better.”


A Telegraph article from September 2015 on the most crowded trains in Britain found:

Top 10 most crowded trains 2014

1. 04:22 Glasgow Central to Manchester Airport

2. 16:00 Manchester Airport to Edinburgh

3. 06:31 Reading to London Paddington

4. 07:57 London Heathrow to London Paddington


A Guardian article from September 2014 on the 10 most crowded trains in the UK found:

The 10 worst offenders

(figures from autumn 2013)

1. 16:46 London Midland train from London Euston to Crewe

2. 07:32 South West Trains service from Woking to London Waterloo

3. 07:21 First Great Western train from Oxford to London Paddington

4. 18:33 Heathrow Connect train from London Paddington to Heathrow



TripAdvisor says:

Heathrow “Express”: (Overground to Paddington)

  • The most heavily marketed way to get to central London is the Heathrow Express.
  • The main advantage of the Heathrow Express is that the journey time is only 15 minutes to Paddington from terminals 2 and 3, 23 minutes from terminal 4 and 21 minutes from terminal 5. Trains run every 15 minutes, which is slightly less frequent than the Piccadilly line. In addition, the Heathrow Express is air conditioned with plenty of baggage space, on-board TV, free WiFi and better suited for travel from the airport than the Piccadilly Line.
  • The main disadvantage, apart from the very high cost, is that the terminus is Paddington station, in West London!
  • For most visitors to London, from here they will require further transport, quite possibly on the Underground, to reach their final destination. This travel will of course carry further costs.  If your final destination is not near Paddington, the time saving from using the Express can be very marginal.