|Franchise(s)||Open access operator|
Not subject to franchising
23 June 1998 – 2028
|Main route(s)||London Paddington – Heathrow Airport|
|Fleet size||14 Class 332 electric multiple units|
|Stations called at||3|
|Parent company||Heathrow Airport Holdings|
Heathrow Express is an airport rail link between London Heathrow Airport and London Paddington. It is an open-access operator, formed in 1998, and is operated by Heathrow Express Operating Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Heathrow Airport Holdings.
Heathrow Express was planned as a joint venture between BAA and British Rail, but was taken over fully by the former following the privatisation of British Rail. Construction began in 1993. The principal works were two 5-mile single-bore tunnels (including eight escape shafts) and underground stations at Heathrow Central and Terminal 4. Electrification of the Great Western Main Line (GWML) between Paddington and Airport Junction, where the new line diverged from the GWML, was also required. A flying junction known as Stockley Flyover was constructed to connect the tunnel to the GWML fast lines. Beginning in January 1998, an interim service called Heathrow FastTrain ran to a temporary station called Heathrow Junction, where a coach took passengers the rest of the way. The full service began on 23 June 1998, with four trains per hour running in each direction, operated using Class 332 EMUs built by Siemens Mobility.
From 1999 to 2003, a check-in service was provided at Paddington, allowing Heathrow Express passengers to check in and drop off their luggage prior to flights, which was similar to the service currently provided on Hong Kong Airport Express. Checked baggage was transported to the airport by using the luggage space at the westbound first carriage. This service was withdrawn due to low usage and high cost of operation.
In June 2005, Heathrow Express began jointly providing a new Heathrow Connect service, which saw a new twice-hourly stopping service on the same route between Paddington and Heathrow using Class 360 EMUs from the Siemens Desiro family. Heathrow Airport Holdings had provided the on-board staff through Heathrow Express as part of the contract. This continued until May 2018, which saw Heathrow Connect absorbed into TfL Rail ahead of the new Crossrail project, which will see Crossrail fully operate to Heathrow Airport through this takeover when it opens.
In March 2018, it was announced that Great Western Railway would takeover management of Heathrow Express in August 2018 as part of a new management contract. However, Heathrow Express later on announced that Heathrow Airport Holdings will continue to own the rail link until at least 2028 with GWR instead managing the introduction of the new Class 387 fleet to replace the current Class 332 fleet.
|London Paddington to Heathrow Terminal 5||4||Heathrow Terminals 2 & 3||332|
Trains depart Paddington every 15 minutes from 05:10 (06:10 on Sunday) until 23:25, and there is a similar quarter-hourly service in the return direction. At Paddington they use dedicated platforms 6 and 7, although on occasions other platforms are used. There are two stops at Heathrow: Heathrow Central, serving Terminals 2 and 3 (journey time from Paddington 15 minutes); and Heathrow Terminal 5 (journey time 21 minutes), platforms 3 and 4. Until the opening of Terminal 5 on 27 March 2008, Heathrow Express terminated at Heathrow Terminal 4. In 2010, Heathrow Express introduced a dedicated shuttle between Heathrow Central and Terminal 4 that would be timed to connect with the main Heathrow Express service to/from Terminal 5 to improve connections between the terminals.
The service uses Class 332 electric multiple units built by CAF and Siemens Mobility. These incorporate video monitors and the ability to use mobile phones throughout the journey, even in tunnels. The monitors are mostly used for advertising and for news and weather updates produced by BBC World News.
Heathrow Express has been generally well received, not least because steps were taken to reduce the environmental impact, including disguising ventilation shafts as barns. In summer 2013, all units were refurbished inside and out, including new seating configurations, luggage storage and at-seat power.
The operator employs 160 staff, who work both in the airport terminals and on board the trains.
Heathrow Express is a premium service costing more than twice that of Transport for London alternatives.
The service runs along Network Rail's Great Western Main Line from Paddington to Airport Junction. The line from Airport Junction to the airport terminals is owned by Heathrow Airport Holdings but maintained by Network Rail. The line is electrified at 25 kV AC overhead and uses Automatic Train Protection (ATP). The controlling signal box for the entire route is the Thames Valley Signalling Centre (TVSC) in Didcot.
|Heathrow Terminals 2 & 3||15 mins|
|Heathrow Terminal 5||21 mins|
|Class||Image||Type||Top speed||Carriages||Number||Routes operated||Built|
|Class 332||EMU||100||160||4||9||London Paddington – Heathrow Terminal 5||1997–8|
In 2020, a fleet of twelve Class 387 from the Bombardier Electrostar family will replace the Class 332 fleet. While Heathrow Airport Holdings will continue to operate Heathrow Express with the new fleet, Great Western Railway will be providing and maintaining the new trains. These will feature USB power sockets, extra luggage space, work tables, on-board WiFi and HD TVs. A new Business First cabin will also be included in a 2+1 configuration with reclining seats. This fleet was due to enter service in May 2020 but the introduction has been delayed owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
|Class||Image||Type||Top speed||Carriages||Number||Routes operated||Built|
|Class 387 Electrostar||EMU||110||177||4||12||London Paddington – Heathrow Terminal 5||2016-7|
|Class||Image||Type||Top speed||Number||Carriages||Transferred to||Built|
|Class 360 Desiro||EMU||100||160||1||5||TfL Rail||2002-5|
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- Fender, Keith (February 2014). "Heathrow's Billion Pound Railway". Modern Railways. Key Publishing: 52–57.
- Clark, Andrew (7 July 2003). "BAA's Paddington check-in faces axe". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 March 2018.
- Peter Fox (March 1998). "Heathrow Express Starts Public Service". Today's Railways UK. Platform 5 Publishing Limited: 27–29.
- "Heathrow Connect close to takeoff - Railway Gazette". 24 June 2019. Archived from the original on 24 June 2019. Retrieved 9 March 2020.
- Matters, Transport for London | Every Journey. "TfL to operate Heathrow Connect services ahead of Elizabeth line opening". Transport for London. Retrieved 9 March 2020.
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- Heathrow Express, United Kingdom Railway Technology
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- "Heathrow Express unveils images of new fleet". Business Traveller. Retrieved 9 March 2020.
- Heathrow Express livery for Connect 360 The Railway Magazine issue 1312 August 2010 page 72
- "Heathrow Express starts running public services to Airport Junction". RAIL. No. 323. EMAP Apex Publications. 28 January – 10 February 1998. p. 6. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699.
- Haigh, Phil (11–24 March 1998). "Take the FastTrain for Heathrow". RAIL. No. 326. EMAP Apex Publications. pp. 58–62. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699.
- "Heathrow Express starts direct service to airport". RAIL. No. 333. EMAP Apex Publications. 17–30 June 1998. p. 17. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699.
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