Heathrow to London (& Rtn): Review of public transport options

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  • Anonymous


    Last week, a complicated itinerary resulted me in using practically all the main public transport options within a 24 hour period between Heathrow and Central London and I thought it might be of interest to review these.

    It was all going to be so simple. I had a 1245 flight on Thursday from T5 to Orly to connect with the OpenSkies flight to JFK and originally, I planned to take the train from Bath that morning. However, after a client postponed a meeting at the last minute, I offered to rearrange for 0900 Thursday morning at their offices in Southwark. Since I was travelling with luggage, I decided to stay overnight at Heathrow, check my bags in 1st thing, go to the meeting in Southwark (scheduled to finish at 1030) and return to Heathrow and board my flight. To make it more complicated, I scheduled another meeting at Paddington on Weds evening! The end result was that this meant I would be taking 3 journeys between Heathrow & London and as luck turned out, I used 3 different options.

    Journey 1a: Paddington to Ibis Hotel on Bath Rd (N side of LHR)
    After looking at the map, I decided to take the Heathrow Connect to Hayes & Harlington and then catch the 140 bus from the station to the junction where the Ibis hotel is. The 140 goes to Heathrow Central and is very frequent. BTW, for T5, you can catch the 350 from Hayes & Harlington as well.

    I caught the 1833 train from Paddington and used my Oyster card to pay for this. Hayes & Harlington is in Zone 5 so Oyster & Travelcards are valid on Heathrow Connect but they are not valid if you are going to Heathrow. The train was 5 minutes late and was busy being rush hour, but I managed to find a seat and I’ve seen worse when it comes to overcrowding on trains. 20 minutes later I was getting off at Hayes station and joined the queues for the bus immediately outside the station.

    5 mins later, the 140 bus arrived. Oyster & travelcards are valid on this bus but being registered blind, I have a national bus pass which I used. The bus was busy and I ended up standing all the way which was no great hardship. One thing that I do like about London buses is the information about the next stop which is displayed and verbalised as you go along. Given that it was dark and difficult to see where we were this was helpful to me knowing when my stop was coming. In fact, I already knew that my stop would be immediately after the bus took a sharp right turn to join the perimeter road. Upon disembarking, the Ibis hotel was 5 minutes walk away.

    Journey 1b: Ibis hotel to T5.
    As has been highlighted before, all travel on London buses within the Heathrow is free and thus you can avoid the extortionate Hotel Hoppa fares. From previous experience, my preferred hotel is the Arora hotel on the North Western side of the A4 as there are bus stops directly outside with buses going to T123 & T5. For information, there are loads of buses to T123 but T5 is a little more limited. The 423 bus runs every 20 minutes along the whole of the A4 whilst if you are staying on the North Western side, there is an additional 441 bus every 30 mins.

    In my case, I was aiming to catch the 423 bus at 0703 but was a little late leaving the hotel and it was pulling away as I got to the bus stop. I decided to hop on the next bus to T123 and catch the Heathrow express to T5 rather than wait for the next bus in 20 mins. The next bus appeared in no time and dropped me at the central bus station near the waiting area where lifts are immediately nearby to take you down to the trains. Both the HEX and Tube are free between T123 & T5 but I knew that a HEX train was due and made that connection without fuss.

    On arriving at T5, I was able to check my bags in without fuss and I was leaving the terminal by 0740 ready to make my next journey.

    Journey 2: Heathrow T5 to Southwark
    As mentioned I needed to be in Southwark for an 0900 meeting. Originally I was intending to take the HEX but given that the check in had gone smoothly I decided to take the underground instead. Fortunately there was a train waiting which departed at 0745. Again I used Oyster to pay.

    BTW, you can now use contactless credit cards instead of Oyster cards on the London travel network now. You are charged exactly the same as for an Oyster card holder which is probably much more convenient for an occasional visitor to London. However, you can’t get concessionary travel with a contactless card such as the disabled discount that I am entitled to. For this, you have to use Oyster.

    To get to Southwark, I had to change from the Piccadilly line to the Jubilee line at Green Park. This is not an interchange I have done before and I was surprised at how long the walk was. The journey on the Piccadilly line was without incident and the train gradually got more crowded as the rush hour traffic joined. The Jubilee line train was also crowded but not unbearable but it was a slower journey than normal due to congestion on the line. Despite that, I ended up standing outside my client’s office at exactly 0900 so in the end it worked out well.

    Journey 3: Southwark to T5
    My original intention was to return on the underground but in the end I did not leave my client’s office until 1040. With a 1245 flight to catch, I decided it was too much of a risk to do that. I briefly considered taking a taxi, but in the end decided to head to Paddington and catch the HEX. I knew that there would be departures at 1110 & 1125 with the latter getting me to T5 at 1145, an hour before my flight. To my surprise though, I ended up catching the 1110 despite having to make a 5 min walk from the office to Southwark station, Jubilee line to Baker St and change to Bakerloo line to Paddington. Unlike Green Park, the interchange at Baker St is very slick as you simply cross from one side of the platform to the other side.

    It is journeys like this that impress me about the underground in London. Getting from A to B can be very rapid at times which is impressive in such a large city.

    I made the HEX with a minute to spare which meant I didn’t have time to buy a ticket beforehand. This isn’t an issue as you can pay on board. Again, this is where I am grateful for my disabled railcard as it gives me a 1/3 off the extortionate far that HEX charges so in the end I paid a more reasonable £13.80. BTW, if you ever travel with a railcard holder such as myself, you are also entitled to the same 1/3 off provided you travel with the card holder at all times.

    The train was on time and I was through Security North and in the BA North Lounge by 1150. By 1200, I was sat down at a window seat with curry and rice for lunch along with a glass of white wine!

    All in all, my travel plans worked out well and allowed to me meet my clients and make my flight. A total of 9 individual journeys on public transport joined up seamlessly and I would have the confidence to do this again. The cost was also reasonable as with the exception of one HEX fare, all journeys were either free or on Oyster.

    What I particularly valued was having multiple options to choose from. On two occasions, my original plans went awry but I didn’t need to panic as I had alternatives to hand.


    I travel around London a lot Bathtravel. I use tube, bus and train, and in the main is a positive experience. Personally where possible I prefer the bus to the tube, as you said about Green Park, some connections are quite a hike. Transport for London is always getting stick and I think most of it is pretty unfair. I think on the whole considering how many people they move around every day they do a pretty good job. Not convinced about the new route master though, but i do like the new suburban trains between Clapham and Olympia that have the almost seemless carriage connectors, it seems like your in a train carriage 1/4 of a mile long. No doubt someone can describe what I am on about in a more technical way.


    Good to hear London’s transport working as it should – quickly, reliably and with minimum fuss.

    BathVIP, to throw in one other option you could have considered – after your meeting in Southwark, you could have headed to Waterloo (5-10 minute walk?), for a train to Feltham and then bus 490 to T5 via T4 (alternatively the 285 serves T1,2,3). It’s not as fast as HEx but handy when you’re coming from the south side of Central London.

    MrMichael, I think the new trains you refer to are referred to simply as having walk-through carriages – with gangways between every section. Following their introduction on the Overground, these style of train are being rolled out onto the Metropolitan, Circle, Hammersmith & City and District; moreover – in a first for the Tube – these trains have air conditioning.


    Thanks Travelsforfun. I think their great, I imagine at peak times they can accomodate a lot more pax, albeit standing as I can see they are not exactly full of seating.



    I did consider the Waterloo/Feltham option as I have done that before but I wasn’t sure about the timing of the bus from Feltham


    Like you I am a fan of the buses. If time is not pressing then I prefer to take the bus around London these days. Nearly all stops clearly show where buses are going to and you can usually find a route you need.

    The through carriage trains you refer are running on the circle line now and I have been on them a number of times. They are very clever and the air conditioning does make a huge difference.


    Heathrow Express, allegedly the most expensive scheduled rail journey in the world, banned from claiming 15min frequency.



    When based on the cost of a full fare ticket then LHR Express must be the most expensive 15-mile train ride.

    But there are now cheaper fares, starting from £6.99, when you book ahead and direct with the operator.



    Having lived in London since 1983, my favoured mode of transport is London Underground followed by Thames Link (or whatever it is now called).

    On good days, like today, I walk. This morning had a meeting at Chelsea FC and then walked to a meeting by Bank Station..

    I can not remember the last time I drove into London during the working day.


    If you walked from Chelsea FC to Bank you certainly had time to spare.

    But I applaud the recognition that the car should not be used in a big city like London while public transport is much more beneficial for all.

    Banning private cars from inner city roads, how many tons of CO2 would that take out of the atmosphere? – Many more than those saved by banning a third runway at Heathrow.


    @transtraxman – I am very fortunate, that I do :))


    Is it my imagination that if you are flying into T2 you walk forever to reach the platform of the Heathrow Express?

    Why didn’t they build the platform of the Heathrow Express under each terminal?

    Ergo, either arrival or departures lift then platform or vice versa .


    PdeBarry – LHR Express was planned well over 20 years ago. At that time it would be difficult if not impossible to predict how things would change.

    Another consideration is the poor quality of the ground in the LHR area. Before it opened in 1994, there was a tunnel collapse in LHR’s Central area which opened up a crater and caused much damage which took months to clear up.


    When it was operational, wasn’t T1 the most convenient for LHR Express ?


    The odd question:

    T2, the original was open in the 1950’s
    T1 opened in 1968
    T3 in the opened in 1968 and expanded in 1970
    T 4 in 1985

    Was it due to the poor soil that prevented them from locating the platforms under these terminals?


    Building a new third runway(R3) and a new terminal (T6) at Heathrow always implied that a new rail station would be provided. This would service the other terminals with connections and provide the Heathrow Connect (future Crossrail) and Heathrow Express services with a pick-up/let-down point to/from Paddington etc.

    The logical solution is for such a station to be situated under (or almost under) T6. If you take as good the map layouts as illustrated on Google Earth then you will see that that the rail lines run to the east of the M4 slip-road before continuing through the tunnel into Heathrow Central Area. Therefore, T6 should be located over the M4 (and even extending slighty eastwards) so that passengers do not have to walk extensive distances to the public transport.

    The images presented by Heathrow Airport Limited about their vision for a R3 and T6 (though not detailed) imply T6 would be about 600 metres further west than it should be thus increasing the inconvenience for passengers.

    Will this problem be solved even if it means some housing demolition at Sipson? Would such a move mean the whole new runway could be moved further east so as to avoid the cost of constructing it over the M25? My answer to the second question is most certainly yes, because the distance from the M25 to the first houses in Harlington is 4000 metres. To go further , if you wanted R3 to be laid 1500 metres north of the northern runway then few houses would have to be demolished.

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