diamond geezer

 Tuesday, May 15, 2018

A brand new tube map will be rolling out this weekend, with a whole new line in West London appearing for the first time.
n.b. I found this poster map on the tube platforms at Liverpool Street. There are no digital or paper copies yet.

This is the current Heathrow Connect service, running from Paddington to Heathrow. On Sunday Heathrow Connect disappears and becomes the latest arm of TfL Rail. Come December, this'll be Crossrail's western end. But for now it's just a blue line on a map, and some trains with TfL Rail stickers on.

Five new stations are making their debut on the tube map - Acton Main Line, West Ealing, Hanwell, Southall and Hayes & Harlington. That makes five Ealing stations in total, and seven Actons.

Yes, West Ealing is in zone 3. Yes, Hanwell and Southall are in zone 4. Yes, Hayes & Harlington is in Zone 5. But the poster map is being misleading, or downright disingenuous, by suggesting that Heathrow is in Zone 6. Because TfL Rail fares to Heathrow will be considerably more expensive than taking the Piccadilly line, and the tube map has no hint whatsoever of the extra cost.

Here's a graphic to show the cost of getting to Heathrow from Paddington via three different railway routes. I've kept things simple by rounding to the nearest pound.
n.b. The precise fares are no more than 20p different.

Airport-goers who take the Piccadilly line from central London pay £5 each way at peak times, and just £3 off-peak. That's a bargain. But anyone deciding to use TfL Rail (and later Crossrail) will be paying £10 - at least twice as much - to reach the same destination. TfL won't be pocketing the entire difference, because Heathrow charge a premium on trains arriving through their special tunnel. But every passenger who switches from the tube to TfL Rail will be generously donating to TfL finances, and without necessarily noticing.
n.b. It is true that Heathrow is in Zone 6 if you have a Travelcard. Anyone with a Travelcard which includes Zone 6 can swan into Heathrow for nothing. Maybe that's what the new tube map is supposed to show. But for the rest of us, the jump from Zone 5 to Zone 6 is a secret expensive hit.

The shareholders of the Heathrow Express must be pleased too. Their trains aren't being taken over, but their core route now appears on the tube map for the first time. That'll boost the number of £20+ tickets they can flog to tourists flying in with minimal local information.
n.b. Yes, it costs less to ride the Heathrow Express if you book more than a fortnight up front, and a lot less 90 days in advance. But you can never beat the Piccadilly line.

You may have noticed a dagger on the tube map at Heathrow Terminals 2&3. Maybe the dagger references the fare differential, maybe the key says "Special fares apply"?

No, it doesn't. Indeed it does quite the opposite, and manages to slip in the word 'free'.

TfL Rail services will terminate at Terminal 4, so passengers for Terminal 5 need to alight at Terminals 2&3 and switch to the Heathrow Express instead. Despite involving London's most expensive train, that last step of the journey will be free, because all train and bus travel around Heathrow is free.
n.b. Don't try interchanging between TfL Rail and the Piccadilly line at T2&3. It can be done, and doesn't cost extra, but requires a really long labyrinthine walk.
n.b. On Sunday ticket barriers will be in operation at all the Heathrow rail stations for the first time, and you'll need to touch in with something even if you won't necessarily be charged.
n.b. When Crossrail is properly up and running, trains will be heading to Terminal 5 as well as Terminal 4. Just not yet.

And don't expect any hint of the extra expense inside the trains either. This is what it says on the TfL Rail line diagram.

Again, the free transfer to Terminal 5 is mentioned, but not the expense of getting to T2&3 in the first place. On the other branch of TfL Rail, out at Shenfield, they've printed "Special fares apply" on the line diagram. But not at Heathrow. Heathrow's special fares are somewhat more hush hush.

Which brings us to the new TfL Rail timetable. Here's the core of it, from Monday to Saturday.

At this early stage, there'll only be two TfL Rail trains an hour from Paddington to Heathrow. That'll involve some careful timetable checking, or else some potentially long waits. Another two trains an hour will run from Paddington only as far as Hayes and Harlington.
n.b. Once signalling issues have been fixed, there should be a TfL Rail train to Heathrow every 15 minutes.
n.b. In the meantime, TfL Rail are running two shuttles an hour between Terminals 2&3 and Terminal 4 to maintain an approximate 15 minute frequency overall.

Acton Main Line and Hanwell are only getting two trains an hour. It won't be possible to get a direct train from Acton Main Line to Hanwell. Getting to Heathrow from Acton Main Line will involve changing trains, and take 10 minutes longer than getting there from Paddington.

Sundays are worse. On Sundays there'll only be two TfL Rail trains an hour. Both will operate from Paddington to Heathrow, but missing out three of the stations. Acton Main Line, West Ealing and Hanwell won't be getting any Sunday service at all. There are no daggers on the tube map to hint at this.
n.b. If you thought Crossrail was going to be brilliant news for West London, think again.

What you don't get in a timetable focusing purely on TfL Rail is any idea of how long it'd take to get from Paddington to Terminal 5. Cross-referencing against the Heathrow Express timetable, it turns out you'll always have to wait for eight minutes at T2&3 before your free shuttle to T5 departs. So that's 31 minutes on the train from Paddington, then an 8 minute wait, then a 5 minute rail journey to Terminal 5. That's 44 minutes altogether... which is exactly the same time it takes to get from South Kensington to Heathrow Terminal 5 on the Piccadilly line.

Essentially, the new tube map is a big advert for TfL Rail services to Heathrow, as a prelude to Crossrail serving the airport from December. But what the tube map poster doesn't say is that fares via TfL Rail will cost significantly more than fares via the Piccadilly line, and you may not get there any quicker either. Perhaps someone's hoping that with contactless you won't even notice, you'll just swipe and pay. TfL certainly need the money, but this does seem a somewhat unfair way of getting it.

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