Heathrow Express

Heathrow Express
Franchise(s): Not subject to franchising
service began 23 June 1998
Main route(s): London PaddingtonHeathrow Airport
Other route(s): None
Fleet size:
Stations called at: 4
Stations operated: 3
National Rail abbreviation: HX
Parent company: Heathrow Airport Holdings
Website: www.heathrowexpress.com

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. It is an open access operator and not subject to franchising.


Original First Class interior
Original Standard Class interior

Heathrow area rail services

Crossrail (under construction)
London Underground Circle line (London Underground)Hammersmith & City Line | Bakerloo LineCircle line (London Underground)District Line

0 Paddington National Rail London Underground

Heathrow Connect

Heathrow Express
Acton Main Line starts 2019
London Underground Central line (London Underground)District Line

5⅝ Ealing Broadway National Rail London Underground
West Ealing National Rail
Hanwell National Rail
9 Southall National Rail
10⅞ Hayes & Harlington National Rail
London Underground Piccadilly Line

11⅛ Airport Junction

Great Western Main Line
to Slough and Reading
Hatton Cross London Underground

Heathrow Junction closed 1998

London Heathrow Airport Heathrow Airport:

Terminal 4London Underground Airport interchange

16⅜ Terminal 4(
shuttle from
Heathrow C.
) Airport interchange

Terminals 2 & 3 London Underground Airport interchange

14½ Heathrow Central Airport interchange

16¼ Terminal 5 London Underground Airport interchange
Western Rail Approach (proposed)

Heathrow Express was planned as a joint venture between BAA and British Rail, but was taken over fully by the former following the railways being privatised.[1]

Construction began in 1993. The principal works were two 5-mile single-bore tunnels (including eight escape shafts) and underground stations at Heathrow Central and Terminal 4. Electrification of the Great Western Main Line (GWML) between Paddington and Airport Junction, where the new line diverged from the GWML, was also required. 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 began on 23 June 1998, with four trains per hour running in each direction, operated using Siemens Class 332 electric multiple units.

In 2005, a service called Heathrow Connect was started, operating a twice-hourly stopping service along the route using Class 360 Desiro EMUs.[1] In 2008, Heathrow Express was diverted to serve the new Terminal 5 in lieu of Terminal 4.[1]

The company employs 435 staff, 90% of whom work on trains or stations, and 72 of whom are train drivers.[1]

Heathrow Airport Holdings have an agreement with Network Rail until 2023 for access paths on the GWML.[2]


Trains depart Paddington every 15 minutes from 05.10 (06:10 on Sunday) until 23.25,[3] and there is a similar quarter-hourly service in the return direction. At Paddington they use dedicated platforms 6 and 7, although on occasions other platforms are used. There are two stops at Heathrow: Heathrow Central, serving Terminals 1, 2 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 terminated at Heathrow Terminal 4, this is now served by the 'Heathrow Express shuttle' from Heathrow Central.

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.[4] The service has received some criticism, however, particularly of its high fares. As of Summer 2013, all units have undergone a complete refurbishment inside and out including new seating configurations, luggage storage and at-seat power.

Tickets can be bought at the two Heathrow Airport stations, Paddington, 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.[5] Express Saver and Business First tickets are valid within 3 months of date of travel and return journey valid within 1 month of outbound journey.[6]

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, introduced 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 to improve connections between the terminals.[7]

Airport workers can get a discount through the Airport Commuter scheme operated by Heathrow Airport Holdings.


Performance for the first quarter of the 2013 financial year was 94.0% PPM (Public Performance Measure), 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 the Thames Valley Signalling Centre (TVSC) in Didcot.


Station Image Time
Paddington 0 mins
Heathrow Central 15 mins
Heathrow Terminal 5 21 mins

Rolling stock

Class Image Type Top speed Carriages Number Routes operated Built
 mph   km/h 
Class 332 electric multiple unit 100 160 4 9 London PaddingtonHeathrow Terminal 5 1997–1998
5 5
Class 360/2 electric multiple unit 100 160 5 1 Heathrow CentralHeathrow Terminal 4 2004–2005

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 Fender, Keith (February 2014). "Heathrow's Billion Pound Railway". Modern Railways. Key Publishing: 52–57.
  2. Heathrow Express, United Kingdom Railway Technology
  3. "Heathrow Express times". Heathrow Express. 2016. Retrieved 26 July 2016.
  4. "Heathrow Express takes off". BBC News. 23 June 1998. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  5. "Smartphone Mobile Ticketing". Heathrow Express. 2012. Retrieved 26 December 2013.
  6. "Heathrow Express ticket prices and conditions". Heathrow Express. 2016. Retrieved 22 July 2016.
  7. "UK News in Brief". Railway Herald. Scunthorpe. 29 June 2010. p. 6.

Further reading

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