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Review: How easy is taking the Elizabeth Line from Heathrow to central London?

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On Sunday, Transport for London finally started running direct Elizabeth Line services from Heathrow and Reading all the way to Abbey Wood and Shenfield.

This means the ‘swap from the underground Elizabeth Line platform to the above ground Elizabeth Line platform’ is a thing of the past – and should make getting to and from Heathrow a lot easier for many people.

As it happens, I was on my way back from Tampa after the Virgin Atlantic A330neo inaugural on Sunday night and needed to get home on Monday morning, so I thought I would see what it’s like.

I’ll be up front here – it is reassuringly boring ….

Elizabeth Line Crossrail roundel

After a quick breakfast in the Virgin Atlantic Revivals arrivals lounge at Heathrow (review here) I made my way down to the Heathrow T2 & T3 train station downstairs. The platforms are really deep, which means you either have to wait for the bizarrely slow lifts or take multiple escalators down.

I opted for the former as I had a larger suitcase with me. This turned out to be a mistake, as I ended up missing an Elizabeth Line train by about 10 seconds. I had to wait 15 minutes for the next one, which was slightly frustrating.

I’m not sure where the train had come from (either T4 or T5) but it was fairly empty and I managed to get a seat. Unlike Heathrow Express trains there are no luggage storage racks, so you need to hold on to your suitcase if it has spinner wheels. I always sit in a group of four seats which helps to stop it rolling around quite so much!

The train did start to fill up as we headed towards central London but it was never busy with plenty of seating always available.

Just before Paddington, we ended up waiting for a couple of minutes before entering the central tunnels as apparently we were ahead of schedule. At the moment, the Elizabeth Line and National Rail schedules are not fully aligned so the final service pattern might be a bit tighter come next Spring.

I stayed on for a few more stops until I got off at Liverpool Street. If I was going into the office I would have taken the short walk from here, but with Rob and Sinead out at World Travel Market I headed home. I changed to the Northern Line via the station connection to Moorgate. In total, it took about 45 minutes from Heathrow to this point.

Interestingly, despite the multiple stops, it is now showing via Citymapper as one of the fastest options home for me. It seems to be often as fast (or even faster) than the Heathrow Express to Paddington before changing onto a longer tube journey. It is also far more pleasant of course, as I can spend more time in the spacious, air conditioned Elizabeth Line trains.

In total, my journey took just under an hour plus the short walk from the tube station to my flat. It cost £12.80, which would be reduced to £8.50 with a Railcard. It’s good to have another option for getting to Heathrow.

Comments (219)

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  • Ankur says:

    “… which would be reduced to £8.50 with a Railcard”

    It’s a shame that TfL don’t make it easy to add/claim railcard discounts when paying by contactless, since this can only be linked to physical Oyster cards. I often don’t like to carry a separate Oyster card or forget it, but I’ve always suspected this is to keep overall numbers of people applying for railcard discounts low while usage with contactless has taken off.

    • highflycariocaseb says:

      Is this true then as you said above? The railcard discount can only be applied if I use an Oyster card with my railcard loaded onto it? It makes more sense to me to take HEX with an advance saver ticket, apply the railcard (+ earn Avios) and pay £7.30 rtn for that journey between Paddington and LHR. From Paddington you then continue to your final destination with PAYG on your contactless…

  • Jenny says:

    Given it’s only just opened, it’s disappointing to see the Elizabeth Line section to Heathrow closed on the weekend of 19-20 November. I was looking forward to trying it.

  • DavidB says:

    Did this last night albeit just between T2/3 and my hotel @T4. Will head into the city later today on it too, though just to Ealing Broadway. Odd though that T4 gets more frequent trains than the much busier T5.

    • John says:

      It doesn’t… Both T4 and T5 are served every half an hour. But T5 additionally has Heathrow Express which will let you get the next train from T4 to London rather than waiting for the next T5 train.

      • SamG says:

        I believe T4 will have 4 trains at some point (May?) Presumably they want to keep the HEX at T5 to maximise profits

        • Tim says:

          They don’t *want* to keep HEX at T5, but HEX have a contract for 40 years which doesn’t expire until 2038. Until then, HEX (which is part owned by BA) keeps its paths to T5. After that date, I suspect EL frequncies to T5 will increase and GWR will gain the use of 2 extra mainline platforms.

          • Nick says:

            BA does not own any of HEx.

          • Tim says:

            I stand corrected. Heathrow (BAA) owns HEx, not BA. I was conflating it with Eurostar which I believe BA did/does have a chare in

  • John says:

    The lifts are generally always faster than the escalators.

    The train was not ahead of schedule at Westbourne Park, it was on time, the standing time is planned, in order to reduce the impact of delays on the Great Western Main Line which could ruin the tight schedule in the tunnels

    • Ian says:

      But please bear in mind disabled people who do not have a choice.

      • Save East Coast Rewards says:

        There are multiple lifts at the Heathrow stations and the airport always says the fastest way is to use the lifts.

    • Rhys says:

      Yes, which is why I normally take them. But for some reason they always seem really slow even when it isn’t busy!

      • Bagoly says:

        “Safety” said they have to have low acceleration and deceleration.

  • meta says:

    At Farringdon station, if you transfer from underground to Elisabeth line you have to get out of the underground station cross the street and go back down to the Elisabeth line. It’s beyond belief that they just couldn’t make an underground tunnel.

    • James says:

      You really don’t. Come out of the Lizzy line and it takes you straight onto the Thameslink platforms – walk along and you can cross the bridge over to the tube. You can also walk a few meters over the street. I’m not sure how you could make it easier!

      • meta says:

        The fact that you have to describe it in so many words, walking along the platforms, crossing bridges or streets makes it neither smooth nor easy, especially with luggage. There is no direct EL to tube link and it is evident if you look on Google Maps.

        They should have really built the underground tunnel. For me, it makes more sense to continue to use Piccadilly line.

        • aseftel says:

          It’s pretty quick and easy to EL at Farringdon if you are coming/going to the eastbound tube: take the lift from the southbound Thameslink platform, which is only a few steps from the tube. I agree it is a pain if you want to get to the westbound tube lines.

        • James says:

          It takes no more than 2 minutes to reach the tube from the lizzy line escalator – what were you expecting? A moving tunnel that deposits you on the actual tube! It’s a very easy change and shorter than many tube changes at Bank.

          • meta says:

            @James Exactly that. I shouldn’t have to go up then down. It’s a bad construction and design. It should be friendly to people with bulky luggage. Otherwise what’s the point, plus the service is not frequent enough. If you live close to one of the stations perhaps it works for you, but for me Piccadilly line is still faster and cheaper and smoother.

        • lumma says:

          If Farringdon is an issue, stay on for one more stop and change at Liverpool Street for Moorgate which is an easy interchange (make sure you’re in coach 3).

          For King’s Cross change at Tottenham Court Road for the Northern Line

          • Save East Coast Rewards says:

            Tottenham Court Road has no direct link to King’s Cross. There’s two branches of the Northern line and KGX is served by the other one.

      • aseftel says:

        Well they could have installed oyster touch points by the TL-EL entrance for passengers making a national rail to EL interchange.

        • gibssssi says:

          this is the key point.

          Borderline fraud not having them there.

          • Roy says:

            I don’t understand. You touch out at one entrance and touch in at the other, and the system automatically merges it into a single journey. It’s called an Out of Station Interchange (OSI) and hardly unique to Farringdon (or the Elizabeth line).

    • memesweeper says:

      1. no you don’t – you can stay within the gateline by travelling via the thameslink platforms
      2. if you are on the anti-clock circle / westbound H&C or Met you can also get off at Barbican and use the (unadvertised) lift at the end of the platform to descend to Her Majesty’s line

      • Roy says:

        Sure. I’m just trying to figure out what aspect of the current arrangements other posters seem to regard as “borderline fraud”.

        I was guessing that they thought they’d be charged for two journeys if they left the station, but maybe they meant something else?

  • The real Swiss Tony says:

    And as I think was pointed out at the weekend, Shenfield only links as far as Paddington right now. Only Canary Wharf trains run through to Heathrow.

    • Patrick C says:

      this will stay like that. But you cna literally change in the central tunnels by going out and waiting a few minutes. There is close to 0 added value in making these trains run to heathrow.

  • Maurits Kalff says:

    Only two trains an hour from T5 is a huge disappointment.

    • Michael Jennings says:

      There is capacity at T5 station to turn around a maximum of six trains an hour. Four of them are Heathrow Express services, and two are Elizabeth Line. TfL would love to replace the HEx services with Elizabeth line services, but Heathrow Airport doesn’t want this, and they own the station and the line into Heathrow.

      • lumma says:

        You can also jump on the Heathrow Express one stop for free to T2/3 and pick up an Elizabeth line train there

      • Rhys says:

        Maybe at some point Heathrow will cut a deal with TFL to have 6 Lizzy trains, half of which could be ‘express’ services into central London? That would be pleasant!

        • Tim says:

          Not sure “express” trains would work on that line. Trains travelling at different speeds on the same line kills capacity

      • Roy says:

        I don’t really understand this. Aren’t HEX trains evenly spaced every 15 minutes?

        Surely that’s either time to turn round an Elizabeth line train between two HEX trains or there isn’t?

        • Bagoly says:

          Perhaps the staff tasked with walking through the train to check for bombs have to have two breaks an hour?

          • Roy says:

            Of all the security threats to worry about, this has always seemed to me like an odd one…

  • Terry Butcher says:

    And what a huge missed opportunity not to aim the service at Heathrow Airport passengers – for example, each and every train stops at each and every little station along the way.

    Surely the schedule could be implemented so that some of the trains stop only at, say Ealing Broadway and then Hayes and Harlington before going straight to the airport.

    Clearly this is a local train service which then simply continues to the airport.


    • Andrew J says:

      That’s called the Heathrow Express.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      So what you want is Heathrow Express … Heathrow have done this for a reason.

    • Chrisasaurus says:

      You know that makes zero sense at all yes? You want two different services but call them both EL, one stopping and one… um.. Express – sound a little like the thing that already exists?

    • Roy says:

      The Elizabeth line *does* skip a few stations on most journeys!

      • jjoohhnn says:

        If only they had kept skipping Bond Street, it would have made most journeys faster!

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