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New RailAir route from Watford to Heathrow, and improved Woking times from today

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In 11 years of HfP we’ve never looked at RailAir, so I thought the launch of their third route – RA3 – and improvements to the Woking service from today were a good excuse.

If you travelling to London Heathrow by rail from central London, you aren’t short of options. As well as the Piccadilly Line tube trains, you now have the Elizabeth Line, capable of whizzing you from the West End, East London or even Essex directly to the airport. The Heathrow Express continues to operate from London Paddington every 15 minutes.

RailAir coach

Great news if you live in London. If you live to the west of Heathrow, it’s a different story. There is no direct rail link heading west from Heathrow – even though platforms for such a service already exist at Terminal 5 and have done since the terminal opened:

Heathrow Terminal 5 unused national rail platforms

In theory a new rail link from the airport, using these platforms, would join the Great Western line between Langley and Iver. The chance of this getting in done in my lifetime appears slim.

With no direct link, the RailAir ‘luxury’ coach service, operated by FirstBus, fills the gap.

Where does RailAir run?

Ignoring the new route for a moment, the two existing RailAir routes are:

  • RA1 – Reading railway station to Heathrow Terminals 2, 3 and 5, 40 minute journey time
  • RA2 – Guildford and Woking railway stations to Heathrow Terminals 2, 3 and 5, ‘under 1 hour’ from Guildford and ‘under 40 minutes’ from Woking

RA1 runs virtually 24 hours per day, from Reading at 02.40 to 23.05 and from Terminal 3 at 04.05 to 00.15. Buses run every 30 minutes except in the late evening.

RA2 runs from Guildford at 02.30 to 00.00 and from Terminal 3 at 03.58 to 00.28.

Woking services improve from today, 20th August

There are changes – improvements, actually – on the Guildford and Woking route from today.

Guildford services will remain hourly, as previously, but the service from Woking will operate every 30 minutes. This means that some services will start in Woking whilst others will be a stop on the Guildford to Heathrow route.

What is the new route launched last month?

RailAir now also operates from Watford.

Buses go from Watford Junction and Watford town centre to Heathrow.

Route RA3, as it is known, runs from Watford Junction between 03.55 and 23.00. Return buses from Terminal 3 run between 04.35 and 23.40.

The RailAir website has full timetable showing all intermediate stops.

RailAir coach from Guildford to Heathrow

What facilities do you get?

I’ve never used RailAir, but the website advertises free wi-fi and free USB charging. Some seats are in blocks of four with a central table, which is handy for families.

It also advertises a ‘VIP Lounge’ at Reading – this is described as ‘spacious’ and offering ‘complementary hot drinks and newspapers’.

All coaches are fully accessible for wheelchair users.

How much is RailAir?

It’s not cheap, to put it mildly.

Bought online in advance, a single ticket from Reading is £22, with a return being £30.

A single ticket from Guildford or Woking is £9.50, with a return being £17.50.

A single ticket from Watford is £9, with a return being £18.

There is a premium if you attempt to pay cash on the day.

The cost of a child ticket varies. From Reading, Guildford and Woking they get a discount of roughly 50%, but you may still find an Uber is cheaper for a group. On the new Watford route, children under 16 are free.

If you have more than two suitcases per person there is an additional charge.

You need to select a particular service when booking. You are guaranteed a seat on this service, but if your flight is late you can take any other service on the same day, subject to a seat being available.

RailAir tickets are available as an add-on to National Rail fares.

Any thoughts?

RailAir is something I have never tried. If you are a regular user and have any feedback or tips, please leave them in the comments.

The RailAir website is here.

Thanks to Andrew for his help with this article.

Comments (136)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Matarredonda says:

    First are making a fair push on coaches to London airports as got 3 different services in Essex to Stansted although if local people are to be believed it is at the expense of buses through villages, etc

  • Michael C says:

    Don’t seem to appear on TrainLine?

    • Kev I says:

      Not sure which route you are trying but trainline works for the Reading bus and train combined ticket.You have to put your destination as Heathrow terminal 5 (or whatever).

    • ChrisBCN says:

      WHY do people keep using Trainline? 😂

      • Jill Kinkell says:

        Why not? I use on the very occasional times I want a train ticket. Am I missing something?

        • BA Flyer IHG Stayer says:

          They charge booking fees.

          I looked at tickets to Manchester next month. They wanted £1.99 in fees.

          I don’t pay those when using one of the train operators sites.

          Much easier to get refunds or make a delay repay claim if you’ve booked direct. Some even do it automatically for you.

          • Gordon says:

            £1.79 booking fee to be correct!

          • Gordon says:

            I would clarify that £1.79 is the fee I was quoted from north Essex to LGW. Maybe it is an additional 20p for your journey! If they do charge various fees depending on the distance!

          • John says:

            Refunds yes, but delay repay isn’t any different no matter who you booked with, except for auto delay repay which only works for simple journeys.

            Problem is trainline now does a half-baked “splitting”, which doesn’t always sell what people think they are buying, so it can occasionally be cheaper than train operator sites (LNER does splits but only on wholly LNER itineraries) even with the booking fee…

        • ChrisBCN says:

          If you wanna pay the fees, pay the fees. But you don’t have to.

      • Michael C says:

        To look at timetables!
        Not that I’d do it, but nothing for OXF-READING-LHR.

        • Kev I says:

          Put in OXF to Heathrow T5 and its there, to save you the bother it’s £33.60 each way off peak.

  • Swifty says:

    Give us flixbus!!

  • Gordon says:

    Stansted airport are desperate for busses after a power failure outed the whole site including the transport infrastructure today!
    Anyone due to fly from there check with your airline….

  • LD27 says:

    As mentioned upthread, X26 red bus from LHR Central Bus terminal to West Croydon became the SL7 yesterday 19 August. Frequency has increased to every 15 minutes. Flat rate £1.75. Works well for us when travelling hbo.

  • ChrisBCN says:

    Head for Trains coming soon…

  • Yuval says:

    Tried the bus from Watford yesterday (actually my son did). Bus was waiting at the station 10 mins before scheduled departure and left promptly on time, the station has a RA3 sign on it and the ticket indicated which station anyway. Worth saying that the bus left with 2 passengers only – one being my son and the other was actually waiting for the 724 bus but decided to pay the difference and board. Staff were friendly and even helped them find and board the connecting bus at T3 to T5. Based on this experience I will be using the service as a cheaper alternative to taxi, assuming they don’t shut down due to low demand

  • Jaswhit65 says:

    Paragraph 15, (starting with the words: Route RA3), shouldn’t the article say buses instead of trains?

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