Travelling on the most expensive railway in the world? (The Heathrow Express)

I hate the Heathrow Express. Let me get that out right up front.

“Why?” you may reasonably ask.

It’s simply the following:

29-08-2013 06-01-06A £20 ticket for a 15 minute journey seems radically expensive when compared with the price for a journey to the airport by Tube of £5.50 (cash fare).

Of course an alternative is the less frequent but cheaper Heathrow Connect:

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However, an unexpected meeting just before I went away meant that I was faced with no real alternative but to use the expensive HEX, as the Heathrow Express is known. I assume that this is because there feels like there is a hex on your wallet after you have purchased the ticket.

The trains operate from two adjacent platforms in the centre of Paddington Station and are usually 4 or 8 cars/carriages long.

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Mine was only 4 carriages and was in the platform when I arrived. For the pleasure of my readers I had booked a First Class ticket so that I could review the new seats and layout.

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The coach closest to the ticket barrier is First Class (or Business First as the HEX calls it). This causes a lot of people to run and then end up with the wrong ticket once they sit down in the nearest seat.

The new First Class carriage features more single seats, reflecting its target market of business travellers on expense accounts:

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Each seat has a power socket (or two) which is nice if you have 15 minutes to wait for the train to leave and then 15 minutes for it to get to the airport – 30 minutes work with WiFi can be a bonus.

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The seats are pretty comfortable and there is plenty of luggage space by the doors:

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The windows are large and the whilst the views are not very exciting, as half of the journey is in the link tunnel.

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Part of the coach is a Quiet Coach but this was not being observed by one of my fellow passengers who was desperately trying to rebook his flight to Washington which was leaving 30 minutes after we left Paddington. He was not going to make it. The train operated perfectly to time, and passengers for Terminal 4 have to disembark at Terminal 1 & 3, the first stop. I continued to Terminal 5 – my final destination in order to catch my flight.

So, a nice journey. Would I do it by choice – never! And First Class isn’t really worth it unless you have deep pockets, or your employer is paying.




  1. I must admit that my wife and i found it very easy to take the tube from Leicester to LHR T5. Granted it was a Saturday morning, not very busy, but we thought it was a great value. We also each had a large suitcase, but had no trouble in the station or carriage.

  2. You’ve got to be kidding! “First Class” for a 15-minute trip? For such a brief time, even of the sootiest among us can tolerate the unwashed masses.

  3. The simple fact is that Heathrow Express and Connect start earlier than the first tube. When you have departures earlier than 7am there’s little choice!

  4. No more expensive than NAREX in Tokyo but that is twice the distance. The main difference is that I have NEVER been delayed or late on NAREX. HEX seems to live up to it’s name for me.

  5. When I flew the BA A380 at 6:45am, I opted to take the night bus from Trafalgar square (N9 I think?) and the trip took roughly an hour and ten minutes but only cost me 2.40 GBP!!!
    Next time I go to LHR, I’ll probably take the tube to London but take the bus to go back to the airport.

  6. @Ian I agree the NEX is just as big of scam as the HEX.. Though, I’m guilty of using the NEX somewhat often because it’s so much more predictable. But $30 is outrageous.

  7. The airport train at Stockholm Arlanda is pretty outrageous, too. Even the regular train has a steep surcharge at the airport station.

  8. It’s certainly not worth paying for First Class on the Heathrow Connect but there are plenty of free upgrade vouchers out there. Virgin sent me a few with my flying club card renewal. I also just had an email from Heathrow Rewards with a code to use to upgrade.
    The bigger rip off is the National Express Heathrow – Gatwick coach which I seem to remember was £27 one way – on a bus!

  9. Took it once years ago with a promo code for half off but otherwise it’s pretty darn pointless if your destination in London is anywhere other than near Paddington as you’d need to either get the tube or a taxi which kind of defeats the whole purpose of saving time, especially if your destination is on the Piccadilly line. 50 minutes or so to Leicester Square area by tube vs a 15 minute train ride + 15 minute taxi ride or a 20+ minute tube ride makes it much more appealing when comparing the cost of 4pound or so with oyster vs 24 pound total for HEX trip.

  10. From Narita, I always take the Keisei Line Limited Express – either via the Keisei Main Line or sometimes via the new Line. You can transfer at Aoto onto the Toei Asakusa line (some of the new Line trains go directly into the Toei Asakusa Line) or else at Nippori if you want the Yamanote Line.

    It’s around 1000-1200 yen into Tokyo that way.

  11. i used to take the tube (because i’m cheap), but then realized my journey from Paddington is MUCH easier – even if i’m tired and/or have luggage, the cab to my destination is about 5 pounds – and as previous posters have mentioned, there are always a lot of promo codes out there – so i hardly even feel guilty any more about spending more than twice as much for a much faster and more comfortable journey

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