New lower fares launched on Heathrow Express – as new ‘old’ trains come into service

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Heathrow Express has launched a change to its pricing structure, aimed at attracting more leisure business.  This comes as the current train sets prepare to hit the scrap heap, to replaced with new ‘old’ rolling stock.

Heathrow Express has offered £5.50 fares at weekends and Bank Holidays for some time, as long as you booked well in advance.

£5.50 fares have now been rolled out for every day of the year in Express Class.

A new yield management system will price advanced purchase economy tickets in a series of bands:  £5.50, £7.50, £10.00, £12.50, £15.00 or £16.50.

A fixed number of one-way tickets, which will vary depending on how busy the service is expected to be, will be sold at the lowest price point.  When they are sold out, the price moves up a step.

Tickets are made available 24 weeks in advance of travel.  You do not need to book a specific train, just a particular day.

Children under 15 will continue to travel for free, which means a family of four could travel for just £11 one-way.

You will continue to earn Heathrow Rewards points on these tickets, at the rate of 1 per £1 spent, if you give your number during the booking process.  You CANNOT earn Avios – these are only available on ‘full fare’ tickets booked via heathrowexpress.com/avios.

This page of the HEx website explains how it works.

How is the pricing in reality?

Here are some examples to show you how the pricing drops away.  These are for travel on a Tuesday, priced up yesterday:

  • 29th October £22 (standard fare)
  • 5th November  £22 (standard fare)
  • 12th November  £15
  • 19th November  £15
  • 26th November  £22 (standard fare)
  • 10th December  £7.50
  • 7th January  £7.50
  • 21st January  £5.50
  • 4th February  £5.50
  • 18th February £5.50

The £5.50 fares are clearly there for midweek dates, albeit I had to look 10 weeks ahead to find one on a Tuesday.  If you’ve got your flights booked, of course, booking your Heathrow Express ticket so far ahead should not be an issue.

Heathrow Express £5.50 all day fares

And new / old trains are coming very soon ….

The existing Heathrow Express rolling stock is about to be sent to the scrap heap.  Before we go into this, let me remind you what has happened behind the scenes at HEx in the past year.

Heathrow Express is owned by Heathrow Airport Ltd, and is an ‘open access’ rail service which pays to use parts of the National Rail network.  The spur and tunnel from the Great Western main line was paid for by the airport.

From its launch in 1998, Heathrow Airport has operated the service as well as owning it.  This changed last year.

Under a new deal:

Great Western Railway took over the operation of Heathrow Express – this took effect in August 2018 and will continue until 2028

Heathrow Airport retains ownership of the service

The existing train fleet of Class 332 rolling stock is to be scrapped

A fleet of refurbished Class 387 Electrostar trains is to be introduced

The actual switch to Great Western operation was virtually invisible.  The final stage of the switch will be very visible however – the refurbished Electrostar trains are due to come into operation in December.

Here is a sneak peak:

New Heathrow Express livery

Picture by Geof Sheppard – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=79767195

These trains were built in 2015 to 2017 and became surplus to requirements due to delayed electrification projects and other rolling stock purchases.  Great Western has been slowly refurbishing them over the Summer with a new livery.

No-one seems to have seen inside one yet, with the exterior work being completed before the interiors were done.  The work is believed to include:

adding First Class seats

adding wi-fi

adding more luggage space

introducing on-board entertainment

First Class will be 2-1 which is a downgrade on the current 1-1 configuration:

Heathrow Express first class

Whilst the existing rolling stock is in excellent condition internally, the trains need to go because their depot – at Old Oak Common – is required as part of the HS2 project.  The new fleet will be based at the Great Western depot in Reading.

Given the fares charged, we need to assume that Great Western is spending a substantial sum on the train refurbishments.  Heathrow Express trains are currently the ‘smartest’ in the UK – as they should be, given the price – and, even with £5.50 tickets now available every day, I doubt full fare passengers will be happy if the standard drops anywhere near that of a standard commuter train.

You can find out more about the new £5.50 advanced purchase tickets on their website here.

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Comments

  1. So the existing trains are in excellent condition but are literally going to be sent to the scrapheap?

    • Sandgrounder says:

      They lack the TPWS in use the rest of the country. There were also structural concerns back in 2016, which may also become an issue again as time goes by.

    • Bizarre they are being scrapped, given they are still using 1980’s Pacer stock up north.

      • Pacers are diesel and HEx trains are electric.

        Northern’s new 195s are pretty good but as with everything rail-related in the UK the timetable for introduction was too optimistic.

        • I wasn’t suggesting a like for like swap, point is the HeX trains are stylish and very comfortable to travel on.

          It’s a shame modifications can’t be done to keep them in service elsewhere in the UK whilst older stock is retired.

          • Stylish and comfortable maybe…

            But they’ve already had to be withdrawn from service for emergency repairs in the past due to cracks being found in the structural steelwork.

            Sometimes it’s the bits that you can’t see that are the most important.

  2. IslandDweller says:

    The existing trains are in excellent condition internally – but
    (1) Not necessarily the same under the skin. The tfl rail (old connect) trains were also built by Siemens and the reliability record on those is now poor
    (2) As Rob mentioned, the depot has to go, and it doesn’t make sense to train staff at another depot on this small and unique fleet
    (3) There needs to be changes to radio signalling in the Heathrow tunnels, to permit Crossrail trains to operate. The ‘new’ trains are equipped for this. The existing ones are not.

  3. I would think the lowering of the price is more related to the (postponed) opening of crossrail since they wont charge the outrageous fares that HEX have been asking until now. Especially for trips that continue further from Paddington the crossrail service will be cheaper since it’s integrated into the TFL fare system plus the trains will eventually continue right through central london.

  4. Thanks – I booked a couple 5.50 tickets for March. However, I do note that the previous cheap 90 day advance, etc discount business first tickets have now disappeared from the system.

  5. What will cross rail eventually mean for the Heathrow Express? Does it connect or compete?

    • ChrisBCN says:

      It will continue as the non stop Paddington option. Don’t forget some people will still change there to the tube to get to certain places.

  6. pommy ray says:

    I wondered if booking these tickets through  Great Western site will be possible as I have nectar points given out on their tickets.

  7. Same type of train as a Great Northern, Southern or Gatwick Express Class 387.

    This is a commuter train!

  8. Strange that no one has mentioned this yet but railcard works on the discounted tickets. Just yesterday I booked the lowest fare for £3.65 – journey in mid Feb

  9. It should also be noted that from the middle of December HEx is giving up one of its two dedicated platforms at Paddington. This will increase the potential for delays and is being done to release space in the station gwrs extended timetable. Eventually HEx will get it’s platform back when crossrail services are shifted to the tunnels

  10. Checked the price for my next trip…. beware the screen starts at the standard price and you have to scroll up to see the cheaper prices. The cheapest for my trip is £7.50. Also if you have an Annual Gold Card rail card they only apply the discount to the standard fares not the cheaper £5.50 or £7.50 fares.

  11. The standard fare of £22 for 16.5 miles is £1.33 a mile.

    Absolutely outrageous they have been allowed to get away with it for so long.

    For reference the Tokyo NRT skyliner (more dense, more affluent country) costs £19 to cover 32 miles and is itself considered expensive.

    Hex is crony capitalism at its absolute finest, as is LHR itself.

    • They spent £400m building the tunnel and spur – wasn’t exactly risk free.

    • As I come into London via Finsbury Park or Kings Cross/St Pancras, I wouldn’t even pay £5.50. £3.10 on the tube, and more convenient.

    • Be glad you aren’t in Edinburgh then.

      Edinburgh Trams (far left state owned and operated) charge from £6.00 per kilometre. That’s almost 3x what the “capitalist” HEx charged.

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