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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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  • BJ says:

    No mention of time and time and cost is everything here! How does time from LHR Ts 2, 3, 4 and 5 to say Victoria, Euston and King’s Cross compare using mainly E line versus underground? I get that one would rationally choose one over the other depending on destination but what about time to central London stations not served directly by either option?

    It’s the 21 Century and there is a climate emergency, cost of living crisis and potential blackouts. Down escalators need to be switched off and savings passed on to the customers. In many countries up escalstors combined with down stairs were a thing in the 20th Century, why must the UK be so backwards! As suggested before pulling the plug from the up escalators would bring benefits too…

    • lumma says:

      Climate emergency yet you’re on a website dedicated to flying places?

      • BJ says:

        So are you and there is still a climate emergency. Planes will fly whether I am on it or not. Nothing to stop them pulling the plug on escalators. Folks could save cash on their commute and their gyn fees too.

        • BlueThroughCrimp says:

          Planes won’t fly if they’re empty.

          • BJ says:

            They will not be empty, passenger numbers will continue to grow globally. Despite this it is likely technology will evolve and the environmental impact will be reduced, hopefully even to levels less than today despite increasing flights.

          • BlueThroughCrimp says:

            Chicken and Egg.
            By saying you’ll still fly because the planes are still going shows up the hypocrisy of it all.
            If you want to make a real difference, not from switching off escalators, you’ll make the change to your behaviour first, otherwise it’s all hot air.

          • BJ says:

            Wanting to do the things we do now in a more sustainable, less damaging way, and taking steps to realise that is not hypocrisy.

        • His Holyness says:

          Exactly why there will be legislation to ban flying and frequent flyer programmes. Almost no-one would have wore masks and obeyed Covid rules unless there were laws- look at all the venues that tried to stay open or people getting around the rules meeting on benches for coffees.

          And you’re on a hiding to nothing if you look at the billions given away for the climate emergency (without any cost benefit analysis, like lockdown- our PM, then Chancellor, told the Spectator none was done) will mean this legislation isn’t coming.

          You deal with an emergency with blue lights on, you don’t solve it with a snails pace.

          • BJ says:

            Will be interesting to see where the legislstion goes but I think we are just messing round the edges at the moment. I cannot see the political will or consent for the blue light approach until the impact becomes much more acute. Doubt it will be in our lifetime so we’ll probably never know.

          • Mikeact says:

            Which countries do you think are likely to legislate to ban flying and ffp’s…..the US…Far East…even the UK ?
            I think not….well, certainly not in my life time.

    • Rhys says:

      How many people take the train to the main rail stations, though? Granted, some out-of-Londoners will, but for everyone else it’s irrelevant!

      • ThomasB says:

        Well, there are over 50 million of us “out-of-Londoners” in the UK, so probably quite a few.

      • The Savage Squirrel says:

        “How many people take the train to the main rail stations, though?”


        Quite a lot of us fly from Heathrow when living out of London; from oop north even. We’re a lot less familiar with all the different options and nuances of the London transport system, and the likely timings for each option, compared to London residents, so this would be very useful information. In fact in some ways a lot more helpful than aiming the article at those who use the London transport system very regularly who will be able to work things out for themselves…

      • TGLoyalty says:

        Ridiculous comment. Only about 50m+

        • Rhys says:

          50M+ are going to Heathrow via National Rail stations on a regular basis? According to Heathrow’s 2019 travel report only 30M total used public transport options to get to/from the airport full stop!

          • BJ says:

            Sounds like you did not get any sleep on the plane … Rob did say press flights were ” bloody hard work” so we understand…

          • TGLoyalty says:

            The point is there are many people outside London and giving some info like that might actually have made this article interesting. Right now I don’t actually understand the point of this article other than to show us that the train really does go from LHR T2/3 to Liverpool Street which isn’t groundbreaking information for any Londoner who has access to google maps or reads the internet/the news etc

          • Rhys says:

            As I said, I wrote another article months ago that we are yet to publish that compares the different modes 🙂

      • BJ says:

        Those were just examples. I just would like to know roughly the comparative time and cost to central London. Sure, I could look it up but disappointed you’re not making my life a little easier Rhys, after all it’s part of the reason I read HfP 🙂

      • Daz says:

        What an incredibly insular comment. Going via London is the fastest way for many people who do not live in the capital to get from A-B, LHR being the only choice for certain destinations.

        • Rhys says:

          Yes, of course. But for anyone who lives outside London driving is surely much easier?

          • yorkieflyer says:

            Err, you tried the M25 recently????

          • Craig says:

            Lol that sounded every bit a comment from a “Londoner”.

            I live in the Midlands, driving to London and / or LHR? Are you mad!!!?! Absolutely NOT “easier”.

          • jjoohhnn says:

            Currently, you have an option between M25 closures due to protesters, or a lack of trains due to rail strikes (that were cancelled). It’s a great situation. Not sure why they can’t plan for both options where the staff are on strike and for them not to be on strike but hey-ho..

          • Mark says:

            Driving to London? 4plus hours in the car. Or 2 hours on the train, snacks, get up and walk about.

      • yorkieflyer says:

        More than you think given the crap reliability of BA domestics

    • Andrew. says:

      As you’re an Edinburgh based man, surely you should be demanding that the Capital leads by example rather than London?

      Time to switch off the escalators on Waverley steps (absolute nonsense that they were ever installed in the first place).

      • Big Ern says:

        Unless you are not fit or healthy enough to take the steps…and the alternate lifts have very limited capacity for the numbers who use this exit

        • BJ says:

          Sendible decisions on elrvators would need to be made on station by station basis. Just spebt a few days in Bangkok. All tge skytrain statikns habe up escalators, down stairs and lifts. Very few use the lifts.

      • BJ says:

        Couldn’t agree more! Lot’s of simple things we could do everywhere that would come with multiple benefits. I’m by no means an extremist, I get we have to be practical but I believe simple but meaning adjustments should be made.

    • RussellH says:

      Making people walk down long stairways with heavy luggage will only cause accidents over time. When pax nos. are high, lifts and stairs simply would not be able to cope. But if the escalators run all the time, rather than being activated by a person approaching it, then I would agree that that is less than optimal.

      • BJ says:

        That is a point but do you think an accident with heavy luggage on an escalator would be any less dangerous than on a stair?

        I am not saying all escalators everywhere, just that things like this should be looked at and where possible sensible decisions made . Many escalators run continuously even when nobody is using them which is crazy.

      • yorkieflyer says:

        Folk with suitcases should use the lift anyway

    • SaxonChap says:

      Alright for the physically fit eh, but for those of us who’ve had heart attacks etc., escalators are a god send when travelling with luggage. Hope you never have to experience that!

    • Guy Incognito says:

      @BJ You set us the example by stopping using any oil / fossil fuel derived products. I reckon you’d survive no more than 5 days before you died.

      This demonisation of fossil fuels is absolutely extraordinary. They have done so much good for so many people (and continue to do so).

      • BJ says:

        I’m not doing any such thing. All I am saying is that we need to look for practical solutions that are beneficial, often in multiple ways, that need not overly adversely compromise way of life. Oil is needed for so many products otger than fuel and I am in no way suggestion production is stopped. People can accommodate change and embrace it, consider for example separation and recycling of domestic waste.

    • yorkieflyer says:

      very true re many many countries have escalators up and stairs down. Not sure how the lazy obese UK population would cope though?

      • memesweeper says:

        Turning off ‘down’ would lead to capacity problems at many stations.

        The steps are not ideally spaced for walking, either, it’s actually pretty uncomfortable to walk more than a few steps for some people.

        Encouraging people to use public transport is probably more climate friendly than providing more reasons to travel by car/taxi. Turning off escalators will drive a small minority to other modes of travel.

        • Dubious says:

          Why do down-escalators need electricity? Is it possible to invent one that runs on gravity?

          Then use the electricity savings to power the up-escalator?

          • Ryan says:

            If this is serious then I’m concerned… do you realise how gravitational potential tail energy works? You’d need a lot of mass moving down to have any chance

          • Dubious says:

            Ryan – No, not serious. I was just trying to inject some positivity into the debate and consider solutions instead of issues.

            I live in a place that has escalators all over the place – although most only activate once your on them.
            I never knew this up/down stuff was a thing until reading these comments.

    • Mike says:

      Ah yes, another virtue signal from you, lovely. You are happy to fly, one of the most carbon intensive activities, and justify it as they’ll fly anyway, they won’t if there’s no demand. Yet you feel people shouldn’t be able to use down escalators. There are people whose mobility isn’t as bad as
      to always need to take a lift but can get some exercise walking but allowing an escalator to do the heavy lifting bits.

      It’s funny, the worst virtue signallers are those who think life should change for other people but not for them. I guess if you ever needed an escalator that went downwards you’d be complaining about the injustice of it.

    • Chrisasaurus says:

      BJ from an engineering perspective here surely down escalators use minimal energy – if there was zero friction (appreciate there is not) then the only required energy would be in slowing down the people and their bags against the force of gravity?

  • Anna says:

    “ I always sit in a group of four seats which helps to stop it rolling around quite so much!”

    So if the train gets full later on, do you move your suitcase?

    • Rhys says:

      It didn’t 🙂

      • yorkieflyer says:

        priceless that there’s no dedicated luggage space, even the ancient Piccadilly line trains manage that feat.

    • Dubious says:

      When I read the article I was expecting Rhys to get a lot of flack. How wrong I was!

      Rhys – do you not find it easier to slide it in between the two seater?

      I used to find on mainline rail services I could roll my case under a pair of rear-facing seats. Just had to avoid the chewing gum and remember to retrieve it before leaving.

  • ABS says:

    I always see it as a test of common sense to see people on public transport travel with their luggage upright on spinners, holding on for dear life as they arrive at and depart from stations.

    Do people not realise you can put luggage on its side? There are studs on the side of luggage for this purpose.

    • Smid says:

      It is also trivial to move it sideways so the wheels aren’t facing forward. It’s what I do on the Picadilly line.

    • Mike says:

      On its side it takes up more room, important on a busy train. Also, on a busy train a piece of luggage on its side is hard to see in between people so is a trip hazard.

    • John says:

      I don’t know who had the bright idea to make all luggage have 4 wheels which can easily snap off. My older luggage has 2 wheels and doesn’t have this problem, also the wheels are much sturdier. Harder to find this style in shops now

  • Malcolm Ginsberg says:

    For all the money spent there is no wifi and you can’t get to London City Airport. The blame is with Johnson as mayor and his successor not interested in airports. Johnson appointed the now discredited Crossrail Chairman to Chair LCY and the present airport MD seems to lack vision. What about a free electric bus shuttle from Custom House?
    Malcolm Ginsberg

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Thought Johnson wanted / actively campaigned about brand new airport on the Thames ?

      You’ll find it’s quite simply about / cost benefit and not about not caring for airports.

    • Andrew. says:

      Of course you can get to London City Airport. Switch to the DLR at Canary Wharf, or grab the 474 from Custom House.

      Alternatively, don’t be so lazy and just get off at Custom House and walk! Simplest (but marginally longer) route is to head towards Excel, walk along the river front to the Bridge, follow the path under. That takes you out at the bikini girl roundabout. From there just follow the road in front of the Travelodge and that leads you to the Airport.

      I timed myself the last time. Took just 21 minutes at a brisk pace.

  • AlexT says:

    How is the transfer between the HEX and the Elizabeth line handled at Heathrow Central (for a T5 to Central London or vice versa journey)? Are the two stops across the same platform, or does one have to go to a different level to switch (while potentially dragging luggage along)?

    • Save East Coast Rewards says:

      In the central terminals Hex and EL use the same platforms. If you’re heading in the same direction then you remain on the same platform but if you’re going between T4 and T5 you’ll need to change platforms.

  • John says:

    Is there a station map / transfer plan for Farringdon? I haven’t noticed any direct lift between Thameslink and EL platforms (I usually walk everywhere).

  • ianM says:

    Is there still a TFL overground service or has that been binned?

    • Save East Coast Rewards says:

      Overground are the orange coloured lines on the map and have nothing to do with the Elizabeth line. Prior to the central section being opened the Elizabeth line service was called TfL Rail and was not considered part of London Overground

  • Tom says:

    I am not sure why you say the Elizabeth line may be faster to Paddington than the non-stop Heathrow Express.

    The latter takes 15 minutes from T3, versus about 30 minutes for the Elizabeth line, which of course stops a few times.

    Both run every 15 minutes at the moment.

    • John says:

      It’s faster if you’re continuing on from Paddington on the EL train

      • LittleNick says:

        So going Hex from T5/T2/3 to Paddington then EL say to Whitechapel is not faster than staying on the EL stopping service all the way to Whitechapel? Is it the change at Paddington where time is lost?

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