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Hatton Cross underground station is now in the Heathrow ‘free travel zone’

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On Saturday we covered the decision by Transport for London to treat all Piccadilly Line trips to Heathrow Airport from Zone 1 as peak rate. This applies irrespective of the day or time of your trip, and means that the fare jumps from £3.50 to £5.50 if you would previously have travelled off peak.

In the comments to this article, it was flagged up that Hatton Cross station is now in the Heathrow ‘free travel zone’.

This is confusing, because the bus ‘free travel zone’, which was underwritten by the airport, was scrapped as a cost-saving measure by Heathrow during the pandemic. You can no longer travel for free by bus to or from the airport from the nearby hotels or conurbations.

Hilton Garden Inn Hatton Cross Heathrow

The airport confirmed this:

“Free transfer on the Piccadilly Line now includes Hatton Cross as well as all Heathrow Underground stations. This is available for everybody by tapping in or out at the ticket barriers using Oyster or Contactless. There will be no charge on your card as long as your journey starts and finishes anywhere between Heathrow and Hatton Cross.”

This means two things:

  • if you don’t want to pay the new £5.50 fee for taking the Piccadilly Line to or from Heathrow at off-peak times, you don’t have to. You can get off at Hatton Cross, touch out, touch in again, return to the platform and continue your trip. This will mean you are only charged £3.40, which is the fee from Zone 1 to/from Hatton Cross.

Whilst the first option is probably too much trouble for most people, it may be worth doing if you are heading to Terminal 5 and the first tube train coming is to Terminal 4. As you will be hanging around somewhere for a few minutes anyway, hopping on the T4 train and then touching in and out at Hatton Cross before getting the next T5 train at least gives you something to fill the time.

Comments (87)

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  • Jonathon says:

    Tap out and tap in to save the money. What a stupid situation to find ourselves in. Bad decision from TfL, especially when they push the Elizabeth Line cost close enough to the Heathrow Express cost.

    • Paul says:

      Price rises were a condition of Gov funding during Covid.
      TfL likely doesn’t loose out much from tapping out then back in after HAL compensates them for the ‘free’ journey.

    • Rhys says:

      Most people probably won’t tap out and in though. I know I probably won’t.

      • Doug M says:

        Will people really make that much effort. If they’re going to an airport they’re spending money. If you have luggage this becomes just crazy to me.

        • J says:

          Depends. I’d imagine most people who have a decent journey to Heathrow would leave some buffer for issues on trains. If you have a smooth journey and, therefore, plenty time to kill, you can either have a bit of a walk at Hatton Cross, or wait around at Heathrow.

          Also, if you’re going to T5, but the T4 train arrives first, why not jump on that, and utilise the train switch to save a couple of quid.

        • Brian78 says:

          The bigger question is whether most people will even be aware of the Hatton Cross change. Probably not.

          Loads of people read MoneySavingExpert etc but the majority don’t.

      • Neil says:

        It gives you an option if going to LHR and the first train is a T4 , get off at Hatton X tap out and then get the next T5 train.

    • Rich_A says:

      TFL needs the cash. I think it’s a good way to generate a bit of extra income from tourists or occasional travellers for whom a couple of quid on a several £k trip is inconsequential.

      As for airport staff, I guess many will have season tickets or weekly price-capping. I’m not sure if it would have an effect on them?

  • lpgm says:

    I tap out and in again at West Drayton all the time for a similar reason!

    • Londonsteve says:

      What does that achieve?

      • lpgm says:

        It saves you money. In this case, by paying TfL’s cheaper Zones 1-6 prices.

        • Londonsteve says:

          I see, so the motivation is that it’s at the edge of the TFL zone system. For example, where does one need to be heading for it to make sense to get off at West Drayton and do this? Peak, off-peak, or both?

          • lpgm says:

            In either direction, peak or off-peak. Try pricing it up. Reading to Stratford, for example, is much cheaper as Reading to West Drayton, West Drayton to Stratford. Or the other way round.

    • Michael Jennings says:

      I do it at East Croydon. Saves a few quid on a trip to Gatwick. I don’t do it if I am in a hurry / carrying luggage.

  • kt74 says:

    Uh, that Hatton Cross trick doesn’t work if you use the same card or Oyster. The system will treat it like an interchange and is within rights to charge you the full amount. The only way to guarantee it works is to use a distinctly different card/Oyster for the Hatton Cross to Heathrow portion of the journey.

    • Martin says:

      Swings and Roundabouts. A couple of weeks ago I travelled from Liverpool Street/Moorgate to Heathrow T5 on the Elizabeth Line and the platform change at Paddington was treated as one journey despite taking me 7 minutes.

      • Rhys says:

        That’s intentional though, because it would be 1 journey except they couldn’t run trains through when they first opened the line.

    • Save East Coast Rewards says:

      This is not true, although I would advise if you do have a different card to use it anyway so it’s not quite as obvious who’s gaming the system.

      Some stations are marked as ‘out of station interchanges’ this means once you leave the station you have 45 minutes to tap into another gate line in the group and it’s counted as one journey. This is intended for places like National Rail stations where you’re switching modes and having to pass through various gate lines as well as stations that are close to another station so it’s possible to interchange by walking between the two as well as stations like Custom House where you have to walk through a gate line for the Elizabeth line but the DLR has no gate line just card readers.

      As Hatton Cross has nothing to interchange with (buses don’t count as they have different fares) it’s just treated as a regular station so you can tap out and back in again as two separate journeys.

      • Michael Jennings says:

        Out of station interchanges aren’t always 45 minutes. It varies depending on the difficulty of the interchange. Sometimes they give you less time for train to tube than tube to train.

      • Steve says:

        You’re forgetting about auto-continue, which is there if you have erroneously left the station and come straight back in

        • Paul says:

          Selective Auto-continuation is generally only used after an evacuation of a station or disruption due to planned works

    • London Andy says:

      That’s just not true. I tried it yesterday and it worked on the same Oyster.

  • Tracey says:

    The dichotomy of spending ££££ on taxes to use a 241 voucher and the saving of £2 by lugging your cases on and off the tube!

  • Steve says:

    Is Heathrow Express still free between the terminals, or was that scrapped? What about the new Elizabeth Line?

  • NB says:

    Send one person forward with the luggage to Heathrow and they can wait on the platform while their partner takes the tickets and touches in and out with them. They get on the next train and meet up on the platform. Lateral thinking.

    • Brian78 says:

      What if someone is on their own?

    • tony says:

      So long as there’s not a ticket inspection then conducted on board. The guys who work on the tube appear to have no discretion at all…

      Also it seems you need to tap back in with a different card, unless you leave it long enough to convince TfL that you’re not gaming the system.

      • John says:

        At Hatton Cross, you do not need to use a different card nor do you need to wait any length of time before re-entering. (You may need to if attempting to “split” fares at some stations.)

        There isn’t enough space on a Piccadilly line train to conduct ticket inspections on board. Delaying passengers (some of whom will be confused tourists) at Heathrow is also extremely unlikely. The only conceivable place for a ticket inspection might be at Hatton Cross, outside the barriers.

        If you are using contactless there is basically no risk from TfL ticket inspections, just use a valid but disabled card which has not been used with TfL before. At 0230 the following day the system will detect that that card was not touched in at the time of the inspection, then attempt to charge it £8.90, but the charge will fail as it’s disabled, though you can’t then use that card with TfL again.

        • Mirp says:

          What is a disabled card?

        • Heathrow Flyer says:

          I’ve seen inspections onboard a Piccadilly Line train. Around Boston Manor on a Central London bound service 5 or 6 plain clothes inspectors boarded together (strategically throughout the car), waited until the doors closed, then announced who they were and whipped out the e-reader devices.

          Cue some 16-year-old s*** himself.

      • ADS says:

        I do a similar thing at East Croydon (on the way in from Gatwick) fairly regularly

        The timing out the gateline and the timing back in through the gateline is usually within 10 seconds – and TfL pricing always treats it as two separate journeys

    • Londonsteve says:

      Also I don’t think it’s straightforward to tap in and out if you’re not actually walking through the gates. I don’t think you could, for example, tap out 5 different cards only going through the gates the final time, then repeat the process on the way in. The gates detect the passage of the person and open and close accordingly. It would be sure to attract the attention of the station staff who could suspect some fraud or hacking operation was underway. Not something I would get involved in.

    • jjoohhnn says:

      Whats the best way to tap out and in with multiple cards?!

      • LittleNick says:

        I was thinking perhaps if theres two People, Person A waits on platform with luggage for next train, Person B takes person A’s card that they signed in with, Person B signs out the barrier with A’s card then goes back in on A’s card and then B signs out with their own card and then back in, so needs to be done twice, this avoids the barrier open/close detection issue as there’s a physical person signing in and out for each person but may raise attention of staff if they’re paying attention.

        • Londonsteve says:

          It’s discrete enough if it’s someone doing it for themselves plus their other half, that’s only two circuits of the turnstiles, but considering you’ve got to leave your other half on the platform guarding your worldly possessions for the sake of saving £4, I fail the see the attraction. It’s different for a single traveller with hand luggage only and time to kill, or when having to change trains anyway.

  • Lux says:

    *And* you can avoid the LHR drop off fee by chucking your passengers off in the car park at Hatton Cross. *And* it’s made those travelling from south of Heathrow easier / cheaper if using hand luggage only. *And* the £5 deposit on a Oyster Card is now a £7 non-returnable fee. Swings and roundabouts as we crash towards the ground.

    • Londonsteve says:

      That’s an excellent idea. As soon as the masses cotton onto this Hatton Cross will be swamped, not only with gateline u-turning passengers but also cars dropping off and collecting passengers from all Heathrow terminals. It’ll be bedlam as the station isn’t designed for this sort of thing.

  • oldak says:

    For those with gold tier status with four hotel chains with Amex Platinum, which is the best to use for Best Western tier matching?

    • MilesOnPoint says:

      Hilton Gold matches to BW Diamond based on past experience.

    • Pablo says:

      status matcher reports imply hilton gold and marriott gold both give you BW Diamond Select

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