Major Crossrail changes as Terminal 5 gets included – and HEx joins Oyster PAYG

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Crossrail (aka the Elizabeth Line) runs directly past our office here at Moorgate and we have the daily joy of finding our way through the maze of closed streets.  My wife has it even worse – her office, which used to overlook the park which was Finsbury Circus, has overlooked a massive tunnelling site for the last five years.

What made all this disruption worse was the knowledge that Crossrail was not going to serve Heathrow Terminal 5.  The original plans, which you can see below, have trains branching off the mainline to Terminal 2/3 and then on to Terminal 4:

Crossrail map 2

Terminal 5 was going to require a change of train at Terminal 4 – despite the fact that Terminal 5 actually has an unused train station built into it.  I thought this was quite a serious business risk for British Airways, since a flight from Terminal 2 suddenly looked a lot more attractive than a flight from Terminal 5.

Heathrow announced yesterday that there has been a major last minute rethink.

Starting in 2019, there will be two Crossrail trains per hour running to Terminal 5.

In total, there will be 22 trains per hour from Central London to the airport.  In theory we could make it in 35 minutes from our office to Terminal 5.  This will comprise:

6 Piccadilly Line trains serving Terminals 2/3 and Terminal 4

6 Piccadilly Line trains serving Terminal 5 and Terminals 2/3

4 Elizabeth Line trains serving Terminals 2/3 and Terminal 4

2 Elizabeth Line trains serving Terminals 2/3 and Terminal 5

4 Heathrow Express serving Terminals 2/3 and Terminal 5

Discussions are underway on ways of creating additional train paths to allow a total of four Crossrail trains per hour to serve Terminal 5.  This is unlikely to be solved in the short term, however.

In other Heathrow rail news …..

From March 2018, Heathrow Express will become part of the Oyster payment system.  Anyone with a pay-as-you-go Oyster card will be able to touch in at Paddington or Heathrow.  You will also be able to pay using a contactless credit or debit card.

Don’t get too excited – fares aren’t going to get any cheaper.  You just won’t need to fiddle around with your credit card at the ticket machines.

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  1. Why would anyone want to pay using Oyster? Paying for HEx with with right credit cards could be a good source for Avios…

    • Well you can top up your Oyster card with any credit card (including Amex) or use the contactless Amex directly bypassing Oyster. In the end it’s just another option for people. The fare will be at the very least cheaper than the fare they charge to buy tickets on board, it may be cheaper than the cost of buying a paper ticket from the machines (but I suspect it’ll be the same price as this) but you’ll probably still get better deals buying online particularly if there’s a good promo code available.

      • Genghis says:

        No problem with rounding for Oyster top ups. Ie a £35 top up is 35 Starwood points on SPG Amex but only 30 points on 10 x £3.50 journeys.

        • TfL contactless deducts the total amount spent in the day (capped to the appropriate level) in a single transaction so you won’t be charged a bunch of small transactions in one day.

          • Genghis says:

            True. But to continue the example a £7.70 cap still gets 7 SPG points vs taking the balance from a topped up Oyster where the 70p of spend is kind of rolled forward instead of being lost. Only area lose is the weekly Mon-Sun cap

        • Chris says:

          On a BAPP card you can get 100 Avios for the £35 Oyster top up (2.85 Avios per £).

          (Takes time though, and makes your Amex statement run to many pages!)

          • Genghis says:

            How does that work? I thought min top up is £5? £5 -> 8 avios x 7 = 56 avios = overall 1.6 avios / £.

            Unlike Amazon where theoretically you can get almost 3 avios / £ through 34p top ups.

          • Min topup is 5p at national rail machines.

            You earn 1 avios for 50p topup on the free BA Amex and I believe 1 avios for 35p on the BAPP.

          • Genghis says:

            Cheers John. I didn’t realise. I don’t think I’ll be trying it anytime soon though…

    • Johnny_c-l says:

      Half price HEx through shop small Oyster top ups!

    • IanMacK says:

      As well as all the replies below, I use Oyster for business expense travel and only have one company expense sheet entry (“£30 Oyster card Top-Up”) so only have perhaps one entry per month as opposed to itemising every journey / day. And use Amex card for Oyster top-up.

      • Genghis says:

        You don’t use a prepayment account? 🙂 Sorry, that’s the accountancy stickler in me.

    • Michael Jennings says:

      Lots of foreigners will arrive in the UK with credit/debit cards that can’t or won’t do contactless correctly. Buying an Oyster card then makes perfect sense for them.

    • Kathy says:

      Because if you’re a commuter, and have an annual gold card, you can get a discount on off-peak tube travel that has to be registered on your oyster card.

  2. The unused station underneath T5 has nothing to do with Crossrail and I don’t see why it would be needed to be brought into life for this project.

    There’s 4 open platforms in T5 (2 tube, 2 rail) plus 2 more in the hidden station. Of the rail platforms one is used by the Connect (most Heathrow Connect trains terminate at T5 despite this not being widely published) and the other by the Express. The Crossrail trains will simply use the platform currently used by the Connect without the need to bring the spare station into use.

    Personally I think eventually if they don’t manage their aim of 4 trains an hour to both T4 and T5 they will eventually swap round and have more Crossrail trains running to T5 than T4 as T5 is a much busier terminal.

  3. Aliks says:

    Ha – the problems of the privileged North Londoners.

    We in South London can only dream of good rail/tube connections.

    • Crossrail does connect with the Southeastern network at Woolwich, the Overground (East London Line) at Whitechapel and the Thameslink network at Farringdon so it does improve connections for those coming from the south too.

      Also scheduled to be improved is connections from west of the airport (when Crossrail opens passengers from Reading/Slough will have to change at Hayes for Heathrow, but a dedicated rail link from the west plans to be built in the next 5 years giving those a direct rail link).

      There was also a plan for a rail link toward the south joining the South West Trains network around Staines but that seems to be put on ice.

    • Genghis says:

      I live in SE London and plan on an uber to Woolwich / DLR to Canary Wharf and then cross rail to get to LHR when it all opens.

  4. I still don’t get Heathrow Express. I keep meaning to write a complaint letter to the ASA about their claim of being the fastest way into central London. Last time I checked, Paddington is not central london…

    • Prins Polo says:


      And that ad in which they’re faster than a cab – based on a trip from platform at Paddington to platform at LHR – because this is where everyone ends their journey…

    • the real harry1 says:

      there can’t be many people who think of Central London in such a narrowly-defined way as you!
      ‘Paddington is an area within the City of Westminster, in central London’

      • Genghis says:

        For me, Paddington is very much out on a limb in terms of connectivity. From the City taking HEx may save you a few mins (literally) but cost you considerably more than taking the tube.

        • Gavin says:

          Paddington is Zone 1 but not the main business or shopping or tourist area. Therefore not Central

          • Aeronaut says:

            I’d say Paddington is on the edge of central London.

            By all means Lou submit a complaint to the ASA, just don’t expect a successful ruling on what is a subjective definition.

          • Here’s the thing. Dig out your A-Z and you’ll find that Paddington is very close to Marble Arch (10 mins walk?) and you can’t argue that Marble Arch isn’t central London.

            Your problem is actually the lack of useful underground connections at Paddington.

        • to be pedantic it’s at least 15 or 20 minute walk and marble arch really is on the edge of “central”.

          as mentioned… being in zone 1 they get away with it… but elephant and castle is also zone 1. That really isn’t central.

          like you say Rob, the connections are terrible there, i feel bad for all the tourists who get duped into thinking the HEx is a valid option for getting into London. They advertise it so hard when you’re past immigration.

  5. Wonderful news!
    I think in the dictionary under ‘milking it’ it says “see Heathrow Express”

    • Michael Jennings says:

      The rail line connecting Heathrow to the West Coast Main Line was paid for by Heathrow Airport (then BAA). In return they were given the use of train paths on the WCML and platforms at Paddington until 2023. Since then, Crossrail has come along, and there is (for now) a shortage of destinations west of Heathrow at which Crossrail trains are going to be able to terminate, meaning than many of them coming from East London and through the City will have to terminate at Paddington rather than continuing west. TfL/Crossrail would like to run as many services as possible into Heathrow, and ideally would like to take over the train paths operated by the Heathrow Express, and to replace it with more Crossrail services. Heathrow wants to keep the Heathrow Express after 2023. My understanding was that the two sides were basically at loggerheads over this, but it seems that they may now have made some progress. I’m still intrigued to see what will happen after 2023 though.

    • IanMacK says:

      Any clues as to the fare structure for Crossrail ??
      Heathrow Express needs some retribution for their fares for the last x years !!

  6. William Avery says:

    Rob – can I limit my sympathy for you suffering the buIdling work? Cross rail is going to be off the chain!!

    • I agree. You should look at how astonishingly cheap (relatively) property is around Henley etc and then see how close it is to Taplow and Maidenhead stations. I am quite tempted, although schooling is an issue – a nice house on the banks of the Thames, a boat house, quick drive to Crossrail and all for the price of a 2-bed flat in SW3.

      There are some concerns over the trains though. They are being built as high density, minimal seating (standard central London layout) but these will be used for fairly long trips.

  7. xcalx says:

    OT no Bits today.

    Anyone sign up for cabify yesterday. If you have a referral code I will use it someone may as well get the euro 6


  8. MarkH says:

    OT x2 – I cancelled my Plat card on 27th April but the it’s still showing on my Amex home page, albeit with a red exclamation mark saying it has been cancelled. I’ve sent a message to CS but in the meantime wondering if this is normal?
    Planning to get referred by the missus in November and just worried the 6 months might not be counting if it’s still showing.

    – finally sold my Tesco ink. Bought 20 @ £17 each = £340 and earning 20,340 CC points (48816 avios). Sold for £155.68 net = total cost £184.32 = 0.38p per avios, which I am definitely pleased with.
    Thanks again Rob for spotting this deal!

    • Scallder says:

      On Plat – yes all normal. Under card management there’s an option to remove a card or something similar, so doing this will remove it from your online account.. and it won’t affect your Nov referral at all

    • Will stay there until you remove it. Annoyingly the system doesn’t let you see old statements, but at least you can see the balance which helps for seeing the fee refund come back. Thankfully they put cancelled cards to the end of the list otherwise I’d be scrolling through a lot of them!

  9. Cant wait for Xrail to come soon enough. It will literally cut my journey time from SE London to LHR in half!

  10. Alex W says:

    What about getting to LHR from West of England. Will we still have to change at Paddington? This is a pain and driving is usually the best option at the moment.

    • 1. You don’t have to go to Paddington, there’s a frequent railair coach from Reading station forecourt, integrated in the rail ticketing scheme.
      2. With Crossrail you can change at Hayes. Same as now but hopefully a bit more convenient with better connections. Will still be faster on the GWR train though, assuming they do stop at Hayes (the plan keeps changing).
      3. At some time in the future (2023 apparently, but you know what UK infrastructure programmes are like) there will be a direct rail link to Heathrow from the mainline at Iver. Then there will be local trains from Reading straight to T5. These will use the ‘secret’ T5 platforms – they were designed for a SWT link via Staines but that won’t happen because the Richmond/Mortlake poshos went up in arms over the impact on their local roads (there are lots of level crossings on their line which would be down most of the time).

      • Alex W says:

        There is already an excellent direct national express coach service, which much cheaper than the train. But if you’re tight for time then it’s got to be car. Train then bus from reading I can’t see solving that problem.

  11. Interesting how only Heathrow have so far announced this, AFAIK TfL has announced a feasibility study into the 2 extra trains to T5.

    The Elizabeth Line is taking over the connect, hence why ‘only’ going to T4, and then once the whole route opens up in 2019, there is the possibility that TfL will close the T4 Underground Station to save costs when it has another service to the same terminal.

    • Aeronaut says:

      First time I’ve come across the suggestion that the T4 Picadilly line tube station and service might close.

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