In recent weeks Business Traveller has brought you information about how surface rail connections to London Heathrow are to change.
Now news has appeared in the railway press that the operation of Heathrow Express (the premium train linking Heathrow with Central London) will be taken over by Great Western Railway (GWR) from this August.
Ever since it started operations in the 1990s Heathrow Express has been an anomaly. It is not part of the National Rail network (although it runs along National Rail tracks for most of the time) and it is managed and owned by Heathrow Airport.
Indeed Heathrow is responsible for its setting the tariffs.
The other major news is that today’s comfortable, quiet and speedy Siemens-built trainsets are to be withdrawn from service as part of the new GWR agreement.
At the time of writing it is unclear whether the original and fine trainsets will be scrapped or whether they will be deployed elsewhere on the National Rail network.
It means that by December 2019 GWR will be using its new Electrostar trains on the service. A sub-fleet of 12 trainsets will be set aside for Heathrow Express duties.
These are to be modified to provide first class accommodation, high-speed wifi, additional luggage racks and onboard entertainment.
The modified trains will set Heathrow Express apart from the Elizabeth Line which, as we reported, will be extended to the airport in December 2019.
No prices are available for Heathrow Express from December 2019 but they will be “competitive” with Elizabeth Line we were told by the operator.
Some readers wonder how Heathrow Express will be able to compete.
But as we noted the latter will be a dedicated airport service with standards to match.
It must be noted that Elizabeth Line, while less expensive to use, will be a multi-stop service and, judging by the initial photos, it will offer less onboard comfort.
It’s really designed as a high-capacity service running between the capital’s suburbs in the East to those in the West.
It is also confirmed (as we have already noted in previous news) that ticket barriers are being installed at London Heathrow and London Paddington. These will accept Oyster cards and contactless payment.
The barriers at Heathrow come into use during May. The ones at Paddington are to follow in September.