Heathrow Express is an airport rail link between London Heathrow Airport and Paddington. It opened in 1998 and is operated by the Heathrow Express Operating Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Heathrow Airport Holdings Limited. It is not legally part of the National Rail system, but it operates on Network Rail track for much of its journey and terminates at Network Rail's Paddington station.
Heathrow Express was planned as a joint venture between BAA and British Rail, but was taken over fully by the former following the privatisation of British Rail.
Construction began in 1993. The principal works were a 5-mile tunnel and underground stations at Heathrow, and electrification of the Great Western Main Line between Paddington and Airport Junction. A flying junction known as Stockley Flyover was constructed to connect the tunnel to the GWML fast lines.
Beginning in January 1998, an interim service called Heathrow FastTrain ran to a temporary station called Heathrow Junction, where a coach took passengers the rest of the way. The full service opened on 23 June 1998.
From 1999 to 2003, in-town check-in service at Paddington station is provided, allowing Heathrow Express passengers checking in and dropping luggage prior to flights, which was similar to the service currently provided on Hong Kong Airport Express. Checked baggage was transported to the airport by using the luggage space at the westbound first carriage. This service was withdrawn due to low usage and high cost of operation.
In 2005, a service called Heathrow Connect also started, where it operates a twice-hourly stopping service along the route using Class 360s. In 2008, Heathrow Express was being diverted to Heathrow Terminal 5 in lieu of Terminal 4.
The company employs 435 staff, 90% of whom work on trains or at stations, and 72 of whom are train drivers. Heathrow Express Holdings also have an agreement with the Network Rail for access paths on the GWML until 2023.
Trains leave Paddington every 15 minutes from 05.10 until 23.25, and there is a similar quarter-hourly service in the return direction. At Paddington they use dedicated platforms 6 and 7. There are two stops at Heathrow: Heathrow Central, serving Terminals 1 and 3 (journey time from Paddington 15 minutes); and Heathrow Terminal 5 (journey time 21 minutes). Until the opening of Terminal 5 on 27 March 2008 Heathrow Express served Terminal 4, but Terminal 4 is now the terminus for the Heathrow Express Terminal 4 'shuttle' and Heathrow Connect.
The service uses Class 332 electric multiple units built by CAF/Siemens. These incorporate video monitors and the ability to use mobile phones throughout the journey, even in tunnels. The monitors are mostly used for advertising and for news and weather updates produced by Sky News. Prior to April 2010 news content was provided by BBC World News.
Heathrow Express has been generally well received, not least because steps were taken to reduce the environmental impact, including disguising ventilation shafts as barns. The service has received some criticism, however, particularly of its high fares. By summer 2013 all units will have undergone a complete refurbishment inside and out including new seating configurations, luggage storage and at-seat power.
Tickets can be purchased at the two Heathrow Airport stations, Paddington Station, from ticket sellers in the arrivals halls at all terminals, on board the train, online or using mobile applications for BlackBerry, Android, iPhone, and iPad devices.
Standard class travel between Heathrow stations is free.
There is also a stopping service, Heathrow Connect, which takes the same route but using the slower relief lines, on which significantly lower fares are charged. This takes approximately 15 minutes longer than Heathrow Express, but offers connections to the London Underground Central and District lines at Ealing Broadway.
In 2010, Heathrow Express announced that, to improve connections between the terminals at the airport, it would introduce a dedicated shuttle between Heathrow Central and Terminal 4 that would be timed to connect with the main Heathrow Express service to/from Terminal 5.
Airport workers can get a discount through the Airport Commuter scheme operated by Heathrow Airport Holdings Limited.
Performance for the first quarter of the 2013 financial year was 94.0% PPM, meaning that percentage of trains arrived at their destination within 5 minutes of the scheduled time.
The service runs along Network Rail's Great Western Main Line from Paddington to Airport Junction. The line from Airport Junction to the airport terminals is owned by Heathrow Airport Holdings but maintained by Network Rail. The line is electrified at 25 kV AC overhead and uses Automatic Train Protection (ATP). The controlling signalbox for the entire route is Slough IECC.
|Heathrow Central||100px||15 mins|
|Heathrow Terminal 5||100px||21 mins|
|Class||Image||Type||Top speed||Number||Routes operated||Built|
|Class 332||100px||electric multiple unit||100||160||14||London Paddington – Heathrow Terminal 5||1997–1998|
|Class 360/2||100px||electric multiple unit||100||160||1||Heathrow Central – Heathrow Terminal 4||2004–2005|