Services to and from London Heathrow will change in 2018.
The changes are powered by the opening of Crossrail (officially to be rebranded as the Elizabeth Line in December). As Crossrail draws closer, more details are emerging of the rail services we can expect to choose from when using Heathrow.
The good news is that surface rail connectivity between London itself and Heathrow will increase dramatically -– the Elizabeth Line will run six an hour – all will run to Terminals 2 and 3, with four running to Terminal 4 and two to Terminal 5 (Note: I am not including the slower Piccadilly Line here.)
The two main changes this year are as follows:
In May 2018, the Heathrow Connect service will be taken over by London’s TfL. It will continue to operate from Terminal 4 via Terminal 2/3 to London Paddington.
In December 2018, the new Elizabeth Line will commence service to and from Paddington (from the East). Note that you will have to change at Paddington for the Heathrow Express and Elizabeth Line to Heathrow.
More details are available at the Crossrail website.
We will have to wait until December 2019 for the Elizabeth Line to run directly into Heathrow from other stops in Central London and the capital’s Eastern suburbs. The Elizabeth Line will run two trains hourly to Terminal 5 but four to Terminal 4. That means there will be six trains per hour to Terminals 2/3, plus the Heathrow Express will continue as now with trains running every 15 minutes.
Heathrow Express’ main selling points will be more frequency to Terminal 5 than the Elizabeth Line, a faster non-stop service to Heathrow because the Elizabeth Line will make en route stops and more space for passengers and luggage.
But what about fares ?
TfL has said that Elizabeth Line will be priced in line with prices over its network. From that we can deduce that it will undercut Heathrow Express.
Heathrow Express tells Business Traveller that, as yet, no fares have been finalised for when the Elizabeth Line starts. Fares in 2018 are being held at 2017 prices. But we are told they will be “competitive with Crossrail [Elizabeth Line].”
The other news is that ticket barriers are currently being rolled out at Heathrow Express stations.
They will be accepting Oyster and contactless cards. They are expected to be working from May at Heathrow and from September at Paddington.
One final point regarding Heathrow Express is its appeal to foreign visitors. London media tends to think in terms of Londoners.
But Heathrow Express is bookable through airline GDSs. It means travel agents/airlines can include the product with the air ticket making it (for foreign visitors) the easiest rail link for overseas travellers.
After all, if flying into Tokyo Narita a passenger could make more sense of Narita Express than those other Japanese rail firms operating into downtown Tokyo.