15 SEPTEMBER 2014

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Article from BTNews 15 SEPTEMBER 2014

COMMENT: Heathrow Express Cheap or expensive

There seems to be a feeling that the Heathrow Express (HX) is a very expensive railway from the airport to Paddington.  The International Air Rail Organisation (IARO) has come out with a statement defending the prices and also throwing some light on what other airport rail operators charge.  Paddington is certainly not the centre of London.  Your means of getting to and from the airport often depends on location.  However it is central and has good onward connections with the Underground system.

It now costs £21 to take HX from Paddington to Heathrow Central and also Terminal 5 or £1.40 per mile.  There is a change for T4 but no extra cost.  Its journey time is just 15 minutes (and six minutes more to T5) in air conditioned comfort with free wi-fi all the way, including the final tunnel section.

Compare that with the infamous “Stansted Slow”, with a basic price of £24 and at least two stops in its 35 miles.  It is cheaper per mile (0.70p) but then longer journies always are.

The ride from Newark Liberty International Airport to New York Penn Station is US$54 (£33.20) plus US$5.50 (£3.38) to use the transit to the station.  The suburban New Jersey Transit is US$33 (£20.29) compared with Heathrow Connect (£9.90) and the Underground (£4.70). 

Arlanda Express in Stockholm costs 260 Swedish Krona one way, that is £22.63 for 30 miles or £1.30 per mile.  At Frankfurt the express to the main station is €13 (£10.38) for 5.6 miles or £1.85 per mile.  In Sydney, the fare between the city and the International Terminal is A$17.20 (£9.63) for just over four miles or £2.20 per mile.

Whilst the chattering classes grumble, according to the latest National Rail Passenger Survey 94% of Heathrow Express passengers rated it ‘Satisfied’ or ‘Good’ (a score only beaten by First Hull Trains, and equalled by Grand Central).  Heathrow Express is usually in the top three.  The overall average is 86% for regional and long-distance trains, and 80% for London commuter services.  The survey also measures value for money for the ticket price and Heathrow Express scores above average for London and the South East, which reflects the fact that the fast, non-stop journey on a dedicated train is highly valued by its customers.

The other comparison of course is a taxi.  This will be door-to-door and with a ‘black cab’ between Heathrow and London’s West End we are talking about £60/£70 plus a tip.  Private mini cabs can do it for half but it does come down to traffic.  From Oxford Circus do you take a chance with the roads, or ask to be driven to Paddington with more or less a guaranteed time of arrival at the airport?

It looks like IARO is right.  HX does offer a good competitive service.  But will it be so when Crossrail comes on stream?  We wait in anticipation for 2018!

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