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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.

Comments (59)

  • Tim says:

    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

  • Phil says:

    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.

  • Will says:

    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.

    • Rob says:

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

    • Nick_C says:

      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.

    • Andrew says:

      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.

  • Liam says:

    I used to automatically opt for the Heathrow Express as my means of getting to the airport but in recent times I’ve flown more from Terminal 2, and, while this may just be me being lazy, it’s a fairly lengthy walk between the train station and the terminal. A taxi, on the other hand, drops you right at the front door. £5.50 fares might be enough to swing it back in favour of the train, however (at least on non-work flights).

    • Lumma says:

      That underground walkway is depressing. I’ll often get TFL rail instead of the tube when arriving at T3 to avoid the full walk

  • Tony says:

    Assume this change is because of Government meddling so hopefully the ‘new’ rolling stock will be fit for purpose and same situation will not arise as did a few years ago with the Gatwick Express.

  • AR says:

    Can we talk for a second about just how truly atrocious the new HEx app is? All saved data gone and you can no longer display tickets’ QR codes in the app – you literally have to download a PDF. Doesn’t that defeat the entire purpose of even having an app??

  • Grant says:

    Mildly OT, but HEx related. We’re staying at Sofitel T5 the night before an early morning flight and want to spend the evening in central London to do dinner and a show. Is HEx the best way to get in and out of town?

    • Rob says:

      Depends if where you are going is an easy ride from Paddington. Plan B would be TFL Rail (the old Heathrow Connect) to change to the Central Line at Ealing Broadway.

      • Grant says:

        Theatre is on Charing Cross Road, between TCR and LSq, so its either change to Central Line or 15 mins walk from Oxford Circus from the Bakerloo.

        • ChrisBCN says:

          Its about 56 minutes from Leicester Square to T5 on the tube and direct T5 trains every 10 mins most of the day.

          If you walked to Pic Circus for bakerloo, then Hex, it would take about 50 minutes plus up to a 15 min wait for the Hex.

          So about even, some days one would be faster, on another day the opposite would be true. Hex makes that route more expensive but, unlike the pic, there are toilets if you are likely to have had a few pints!

          • Jonathan says:

            The toilets on the HEx are always out of service now. Don’t know if broken or locked to stop fare dodging but been like that consistently over last 3-6 months

    • 1nfrequent says:

      Picadilly Line is probably better as it gives you a direct route into Leicester Square and Covent GArden, which is where most of the theatres are – you’ll have to change onto the TUbe at PAddington via the HEX. If you’re looking to reduce your spend, the TUbe is cheaper too. But there can be problems on the Picadilyl Line as Acton Town has a signalling problem at least once a week.

      1F

      • Lady London says:

        +1 I wouldn’t rely on any Tube train that needs to go beyond Acton Town late at night. Too many problems. Suffered enough trying to get home from late planes over the years.

        Heathrow Connect or HEX or, if you’re really skint, No. 9 night bus goes from Aldwych/Trafalgar Square to Heathrow Bus Station. You’d then have to get across the airport if staying at T5. I believe there are also minicabs you could pick up from Hounslow Wear Tube (don’t take the touts, book by phone or app).

  • Peter says:

    The most pointless service ever.. especially when many people can get to Heathrow for £1.50 (Wimbledon – Heathrow, avoiding zone 1). Or if you’re planning to get to Paddington using TFL then it’s likely you’ve already paid majority of the fare.

    Apart from a case of a single parent who commutes with 3 children (under 15) living at Paddington.. I cannot see a point of that.. even when company is paying – get a taxi 🙂