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Heathrow Express

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Heathrow Express
A Heathrow Express Class 387 at London Paddington in 2021
Franchise(s)Open access operator
Not subject to franchising
23 June 1998 – 2028[2]
Main route(s)London PaddingtonHeathrow Airport
Fleet size12 Class 387
Stations called at3
Stations operated3
Parent companyHeathrow Airport Holdings
Reporting markHX[1]
Length26.285 km (16.333 mi)[3]
Websitewww.heathrowexpress.com Edit this at Wikidata
Heathrow area rail services
from Paddington
Paddington Bakerloo Line Circle line (London Underground) District Line Hammersmith & City Line Elizabeth Line Heathrow Express National Rail
Old Oak Common
Acton Main Line Elizabeth Line
Ealing Broadway Central line (London Underground) District Line Elizabeth Line
West Ealing Elizabeth Line Greenford line
Hanwell Elizabeth Line
Southall Elizabeth Line
Hayes & Harlington Elizabeth Line
Airport Junction
Hatton Cross Piccadilly Line
Heathrow Junction closed 1998
Airport interchange Heathrow Airport:
Terminal 4
Piccadilly Line Airport interchange
Terminal 4
Elizabeth Line Airport interchange
Terminals 2 & 3 Piccadilly Line Airport interchange
Terminals 2 & 3 Elizabeth Line Heathrow Express Airport interchange
Terminal 5 Piccadilly Line Elizabeth Line Heathrow Express Airport interchange

Heathrow Express is a high-frequency airport rail link operating between London Heathrow Airport and London Paddington. Opened in 1998, trains run non-stop, with a journey time of 15 minutes. The service is operated jointly by Great Western Railway and Heathrow Express Operating Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Heathrow Airport Holdings. Around 16,000 passengers use the service each day.[4]





Heathrow Airport, the main international airport serving London, was connected to the London Underground network in the late 1970s.[5] However the journey to central London on the Piccadilly line is slow, taking around 40 to 50 minutes, around the same length of time as a black taxi.[6] In the early 1980s, the quality of public transport to the airport was criticised at public inquiries regarding expansion of the airport, with the inspector noting that "a direct and dedicated ... rail link should be provided".[7]

During 1986, the Heathrow Surface Access Study recommended a non-stop airport rail link between London and Heathrow Airport.[8] In July 1988, Secretary of State for Transport Paul Channon approved a joint venture between the British Airports Authority (BAA) and British Rail to work on the project, with an opening date of 1993.[8][9][10]

In November 1988, a Parliamentary bill was introduced, seeking approval to build the project.[11] The Heathrow Express Railway Act received royal assent in May 1991.[12] In March 1993, government expenditure for the project was approved in the spring budget.[13] BAA would fund 80% of the cost, with British Rail contributing 20%.[14] In August 1993, British Rail and BAA signed the contract to build the line, with an opening date of December 1997.[8] Following the privatisation of British Rail from November 1993, the project was taken over by BAA in 1996.[15][16][17]



Construction began in 1993, with an estimated cost of £350 million.[9] The principal works were two 6.8 km (4.2 miles) 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 to achieve a 15-minute journey time.[8] A flying junction known as the Stockley Flyover was constructed to connect the tunnel to the GWML fast lines. As part of the construction of the project, steps were taken to reduce the environmental and visual impact of the railway, including disguising ventilation shafts as barns.[18]

In October 1994, a tunnel collapse occurred during construction that led to the subsidence of a surface building and three large surface craters.[19][20] The investigation into the collapse led to a six-month delay in opening and additional costs of around £150 million.[21][19]



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.[22] Full service between London Paddington, Heathrow Central and Terminal 4 opened on 23 June 1998, with an opening by Prime Minister Tony Blair.[18] The Heathrow Express brand, as well as staff uniforms, train design and station architecture were designed by Wolff Olins.[23][24]

From 1999 to 2003, a check-in service was provided at Paddington, allowing Heathrow Express passengers to check in and drop off their luggage prior to flights, which was similar to the service currently provided on Hong Kong's Airport Express. Checked baggage was transported to the airport by using the luggage space in the westbound first carriage. This service was withdrawn due to low usage and high cost of operation.[25][26]

In the late 1990s, BAA proposed an extension of the line to St Pancras, proposing use of the Dudding Hill line to access the Midland Main Line to access St Pancras.[27] Railtrack proposed a stopping service from Heathrow to St Pancras, by using London Underground tracks.[27] This was part of Railtrack's bid to win the public-private partnership (PPP) contract to upgrade and maintain the sub-surface lines of the Underground.[28][27] Neither proposal took place, following Railtrack's financial issues in the early 2000s.[29]

In March 2008, the service was extended to the Heathrow Terminal 5 station with the opening of the new Terminal 5.[30] In 2010, a dedicated shuttle between Heathrow Central and Terminal 4 was introduced, timed to connect with the main Heathrow Express service to/from Terminal 5 to improve connections between the terminals.[31]

During 2009, flight information display screens were introduced at London Paddington.[32] In 2017, Heathrow Express announced that over 100 million passengers had used the service since opening in 1998.[33]

In March 2018, the Department for Transport and Heathrow Airport Holdings announced that the contract allowing Heathrow Express to operate had been extended to 2028.[34] During August 2018, Great Western Railway (GWR) took over the operation of Heathrow Express as part of a new management contract.[35] Heathrow Airport continues to be responsible for commercial aspects of the service, including marketing, ticket pricing and revenue management, while GWR are now responsible for operations.[36][37] In December 2020, new trains were introduced, replacing the trains used since the service began in 1998.[38]

Heathrow Connect to Elizabeth line


In June 2005, Heathrow Express began jointly providing a new Heathrow Connect service, which saw a new twice-hourly stopping service on the same route between Paddington and Heathrow using Class 360 EMUs from the Siemens Desiro family. Heathrow Airport Holdings had provided the on-board staff through Heathrow Express as part of the contract.[39] This continued until May 2018, when Heathrow Connect was absorbed into TfL Rail ahead of the new Crossrail project.[40] In May 2022, TfL Rail services were rebranded as the Elizabeth line, with through trains running through central London from November 2022.[41] Heathrow Express services will continue to terminate at London Paddington.[41]


Route tph Intermediate stops
London PaddingtonHeathrow Terminal 5 4 Heathrow Terminals 2 & 3

Trains depart Paddington every 15 minutes from 05:10 (06:10 on Sunday) until 23:25,[42] 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 Terminals 2 & 3 (journey time from Paddington 15 minutes) and Heathrow Terminal 5 (journey time 21 minutes), platforms 3 and 4. Passengers travelling between terminals can do so for free, with passengers for Heathrow Terminal 4 having to change to an Elizabeth line train at Heathrow Terminals 2 & 3 station.[43]

On board


Trains offer a choice of two classes of travel: express class which corresponds to standard class, and "business first" class which corresponds to first class. Both classes are fully accessible, with large luggage storage spaces and complimentary Wi-Fi.[44] First class offers wider seats and a table at every seat, as well as 'Fast Track' security at the airport terminals.[45]

Children under 16 travel free of charge with a fare-paying adult; unaccompanied children may travel free of charge in express class only with proof of a same-day flight to or from Heathrow.[46]



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) and European Train Control System (ETCS). The controlling signal centre for the entire route is the Thames Valley Signalling Centre (TVSC) in Didcot.


Station Image Time
London Paddington Start
Heathrow Terminals 2 & 3 15 minutes
Heathrow Terminal 5 21 minutes

Rolling stock

Interior of a Heathrow Express Class 387

Current fleet


On 29 December 2020, the first of twelve Class 387 units from the Bombardier Electrostar family began service with Heathrow Express, having replaced the Class 332 fleet.[38] The units transferred from Great Western Railway who are also responsible for their maintenance and operation within Heathrow Express.[36] The units underwent modifications prior to their introduction on Heathrow Express which included the fitting of USB power sockets, extra luggage space, work tables, on-board Wi-Fi and HD TVs. A new Business First cabin was also included in a 2+1 configuration with reclining seats.[47]

Class Image Type Top speed Number Carriages Routes Built
 mph   km/h 
387 Electrostar EMU 110 177 12 4 London PaddingtonHeathrow Terminal 5 2016–2017

Past fleet


The initial BAA/BR joint venture initially proposed use of Networker trains, similar to those purchased elsewhere by Network SouthEast in the late 1980s and early 1990s.[48] Instead, 14 Class 332 trainsets were ordered from Siemens Transportation Systems in July 1994.[49][48] These were built by CAF with traction equipment supplied by Siemens, and first entered service in 1998.[18][50] Additional carriages were ordered in 1998 to extend the trains firstly to four carriages, then in 2001 to extend 5 of the trains to five carriages in length.[51][52]

Refurbished standard class interior on a Class 332
Refurbished first class interior on a Class 332

Until May 2018, Heathrow Express leased a singular Class 360 unit which operated the shuttle service between Heathrow Central and Heathrow Terminal 4.[53] Following the withdrawal of the Class 360 unit, all Heathrow Express services were operated by Class 332 units. In 2019, it was announced that all the Class 332 units would be replaced by a fleet of twelve Class 387 units from Great Western Railway with GWR also managing their introduction and arrival.[36] The first Class 332 unit was withdrawn and scrapped in November 2020 and by 28 December 2020, all of the units were withdrawn.[54][55]

Class Image Type Top speed Number Carriages Built
 mph   km/h 
332 EMU 100 161 9 4 1997–1998
5 5
360/2 Desiro EMU 100 161 1 5 2002–2005

See also



  1. ^ "National Rail Enquiries - Heathrow Express". nationalrail.co.uk. Retrieved 27 July 2021.
  2. ^ "Heathrow Express service". Heathrow Express. 10 September 2019. Archived from the original on 6 December 2020. Retrieved 9 March 2020.
  3. ^ "Western Sectional Appendix" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 March 2023.
  4. ^ "Happy 25th birthday HEx! | Heathrow". Heathrow Airport. 27 March 2023. Retrieved 11 January 2024. HEx serves an average of 16,000 customers and passengers a day
  5. ^ "1977: Queen opens 'tube' link to Heathrow". 16 December 1977. Retrieved 11 January 2024.
  6. ^ "By rail or train | Heathrow". Heathrow Airport. Retrieved 11 January 2024.
  7. ^ Lord Jenkin of Roding (28 February 1989). "Heathrow Express Railway Bill". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). Parliament of the United Kingdom: House of Lords. col. 1007. The lack of a surface rail link to Heathrow was sharply criticised at the airports inquiries held between 1981 and 1983. The inspector, Mr. Graham Eyre, reported that, "a direct and dedicated BRB rail link should be provided in any event"
  8. ^ a b c d Green, Chris; Vincent, Mike (2014). The Network SouthEast Story. Oxford Publishing Co. p. 101. ISBN 978-0860936534.
  9. ^ a b "Heathrow Express". Railway Technology. Retrieved 11 January 2024. The original £350m project originated in 1993 as a joint venture between BAA and British Railways Board
  10. ^ Lord Jenkin of Roding (28 February 1989). "Heathrow Express Railway Bill". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). Parliament of the United Kingdom: House of Lords. col. 1007. my right honourable friend Mr. Paul Channon in July 1988 when he approved in principle British Rail's participation in a joint venture with BAA and invited them to work up detailed proposals. That has now been done and a joint venture has been concluded.
  11. ^ "1988". Network SouthEast Railway Society. Retrieved 11 January 2024. November 1988 - Bill introduced in Parliament; the project will be jointly funded by British Airports Authority and NSE
  12. ^ "Heathrow Express Railway Act 1991". legislation.gov.uk. 9 May 1991. Retrieved 11 January 2024.
  13. ^ "1993". Network SouthEast Railway Society. Retrieved 11 January 2024. 16 March 1993 - Heathrow Express given go-ahead with expenditure authorised in Government Budget Day statement.
  14. ^ "1990". Network SouthEast Railway Society. Retrieved 11 January 2024. the £235m cost will be funded by NSE (20%) and British Airports Authority (80%)
  15. ^ "BAA takes total control of Heathrow Express". Rail Privatisation News. No. 35. 25 July 1996. p. 3.
  16. ^ Green, Chris; Vincent, Mike (2014). The Network SouthEast Story. Oxford Publishing Co. p. 224. ISBN 978-0860936534.
  17. ^ "BAA buys Heathrow rail link". The Independent. 22 July 1996. Retrieved 12 January 2024.
  18. ^ a b c "Heathrow Express takes off". BBC News. 23 June 1998. Archived from the original on 20 December 2020. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  19. ^ a b Harper, Keith (6 July 2000). "Managers 'overlooked risk' in airport tunnel collapse". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 11 January 2024.
  20. ^ Harper, Keith (16 February 1999). "Balfour Beatty fined £1.2m for airport tunnel collapse". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 11 January 2024.
  21. ^ Peracha, Qasim (13 February 2022). "A tunnel collapse at Heathrow nearly ruined the airport and a Tube line". MyLondon. Retrieved 27 August 2022.
  22. ^ "New Heathrow Service From Central London". New York Times. 22 February 1998. Archived from the original on 12 December 2020.
  23. ^ "Wolff Olins rolls out its Heathrow Express plan". designweek.co.uk. 24 May 1996. Retrieved 12 January 2024.
  24. ^ "Heathrow Express - Robert Wood". robertwoodstudio.com. Retrieved 12 January 2024.
  25. ^ Clark, Andrew (7 July 2003). "BAA's Paddington check-in faces axe". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 21 January 2018. Retrieved 18 March 2018.
  26. ^ Fox, Peter (March 1998). "Heathrow Express Starts Public Service". Today's Railways UK. Platform 5 Publishing Limited. pp. 27–29.
  27. ^ a b c Harper, Keith (13 September 1999). "Threat to Heathrow Express extension". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 12 January 2024.
  28. ^ Harper, Keith (16 June 1999). "Prescott rolls out rail-tube link offer". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 12 January 2024.
  29. ^ "Railtrack goes bankrupt with debts of £3.3bn". The Independent. 8 October 2001. Archived from the original on 12 March 2011.
  30. ^ "Heathrow Terminal 5 opens" (PDF). London Underground Railway Society. May 2008. Retrieved 11 January 2024.
  31. ^ "UK News in Brief". Railway Herald. Scunthorpe, UK. 29 June 2010. p. 6. Archived from the original on 11 December 2013. Retrieved 26 December 2013.
  32. ^ "Facts & Figures | Statistics on our service | Heathrow Express". heathrowexpress.com. Retrieved 11 January 2024.
  33. ^ Swinnerton, Lois (3 July 2017). "Heathrow Express celebrates 100 millionth passenger with exhibition". My London. Retrieved 11 January 2024.
  34. ^ "Heathrow Express service confirmed to 2028". mediacentre.heathrow.com. 27 March 2018. Retrieved 11 January 2024.
  35. ^ "GWR to manage Heathrow Express service". Railway Gazette International. Archived from the original on 3 June 2020. Retrieved 9 March 2020.
  36. ^ a b c "Heathrow Express service confirmed to at least 2028". heathrowexpress.com. Archived from the original on 6 December 2020. Retrieved 9 March 2020.
  37. ^ "GWR to manage Heathrow Express operations". International Railway Journal. 28 March 2018. Archived from the original on 13 November 2020. Retrieved 1 January 2021.
  38. ^ a b "Today's the day we're rolling out our new Heathrow Express fleet!". Heathrow Express. Archived from the original on 29 December 2020. Retrieved 31 December 2020.
  39. ^ "Heathrow Connect close to takeoff". Railway Gazette. 24 June 2019. Archived from the original on 24 June 2019. Retrieved 9 March 2020.
  40. ^ "TfL to operate Heathrow Connect services ahead of Elizabeth line opening". Transport for London (Press release). Archived from the original on 17 December 2019. Retrieved 9 March 2020.
  41. ^ a b Caswell, Mark (26 August 2022). "Elizabeth Line to offer direct services from Heathrow to central London from November". Business Traveller. Retrieved 27 August 2022.
  42. ^ "Heathrow Express times". Heathrow Express. 2016. Archived from the original on 16 November 2016. Retrieved 26 July 2016.
  43. ^ "Travel between terminals | Heathrow". Heathrow Airport. Retrieved 11 January 2024.
  44. ^ "Heathrow Express Class | Onboard Experience". heathrowexpress.com. Retrieved 23 June 2021.
  45. ^ "Heathrow Express Business Class | Business Travel | Heathrow Express". heathrowexpress.com. Retrieved 23 June 2021.
  46. ^ "Single & Return Train Tickets To Heathrow | Heathrow Express". heathrowexpress.com. Retrieved 23 June 2021.
  47. ^ "Heathrow Express unveils images of new fleet". Business Traveller. Archived from the original on 6 December 2020. Retrieved 9 March 2020.
  48. ^ a b Green, Chris; Vincent, Mike (2014). The Network SouthEast Story. Oxford Publishing Co. p. 82. ISBN 978-0860936534.
  49. ^ "Siemens scoops Heathrow Express order". Railway Gazette International. September 1994. p. 557.
  50. ^ "New Heathrow Express Class 332 EMU ordered". Rail. No. 233. 17 August 1994. p. 9.
  51. ^ "Farewell to Heathrow Express Class 332s". Rail. No. 929. 29 April 2021. pp. 36–37.
  52. ^ "Heathrow Express orders five more Class 332 trailers". Rail. No. 410. 30 May 2001. p. 11.
  53. ^ "Heathrow Express livery for Connect 360". The Railway Magazine. No. 1312. August 2010. p. 72.
  54. ^ "First of the Heathrow Class 332s is scrapped". Rail. No. 920. 16 December 2020. p. 27.
  55. ^ "Today we're saying farewell to our Class 332 trains". Twitter. Heathrow Express. Archived from the original on 28 December 2020. Retrieved 31 December 2020.

Further reading

  • "Heathrow Express starts running public services to Airport Junction". RAIL. No. 323. EMAP Apex Publications. 28 January – 10 February 1998. p. 6. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699.
  • Haigh, Phil (11–24 March 1998). "Take the FastTrain for Heathrow". RAIL. No. 326. EMAP Apex Publications. pp. 58–62. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699.
  • "Heathrow Express starts direct service to airport". RAIL. No. 333. EMAP Apex Publications. 17–30 June 1998. p. 17. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699.