The Heathrow Express (HEx) rail service has been preserved until at least 2028 under a new agreement, confirming fast, non-stop rail connections for Heathrow passengers over the next decade.
The service has been approved by the Department for Transport (DfT) and will see Heathrow Airport retain the commercial aspects including marketing, ticket pricing and revenue, while FirstGroup’s Great Western Railway subsidiary will run the operational aspects of the Heathrow Express service under a management contract from later this year.
Heathrow Airport will continue to own the HEx service, and will be responsible for managing rail stations at the airport.
Passengers will also benefit from new ticket readers at Heathrow and Paddington, which will allow users of Heathrow Express and TfL Rail – soon to be the Elizabeth Line – to use pay-as-you-go Oyster or a contactless device. As a result of this agreement, a new Heathrow Express Langley depot will no longer be needed.
GWR will manage the introduction of a new fleet of trains for the Heathrow Express service, which will be converted by December 2019 to provide first class carriages, high speed wi-fi, additional luggage racks and onboard entertainment. Until that time, the HEx service will continue to be provided by the existing fleet of trains.
John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow’s chief executive, said, “This agreement secures convenient and reliable public transport journeys to Heathrow in this decade and beyond. We have ambitious plans to transform rail journeys into the airport, and our passengers will reap the benefits of having Heathrow at the heart of an integrated, sustainable transport network.”
This May, the initial phase of Heathrow Crossrail services will be introduced. From December 2019, and the full opening of the Elizabeth Line, rail services to Heathrow will increase from 18 trains per hour today to at least 22 trains per hour. A train will depart Central London to Heathrow on average every two-and-a-half minutes.
Tim O’Toole, chief executive at FirstGroup, added, “Today’s agreement demonstrates the transport industry working in partnership for the benefit of passengers, allowing fast and convenient connections to continue on this crucial airport link.
“We are an experienced rail operator with a strong track record in delivering customer improvements, and through this management contract we look forward to building on this operational expertise, as we work with Heathrow to bring in a dedicated fleet of high-specification trains that will help keep people moving and communities prospering in the future.”