diamond geezer

 Friday, May 03, 2019

Only the rich, the rushed or the under-informed take the Heathrow Express.

 Fare
(peak)
Fare
(off-peak)
Time to
Zone 1
Heathrow Express£25£2215 mins
TfL Rail (Crossrail)£10.20£10.1030 mins
Piccadilly line£5.10£3.1040 mins

Not surprisingly a battle's on to take your money, and contactless has stepped this up a gear.

Previously whether you took Heathrow Express or TfL Rail, you made your decision before you reached the platform. You bought your £20-something or £10-ish ticket, headed through the barriers and boarded your train, so the battleground was the point of sale. But since February anyone travelling from Heathrow on a card, not a ticket, doesn't need to make their decision until they're down on the platform, and that can be an expensive choice.



A quick note on the infrastructure before we continue.

At each of Heathrow's terminals, the tube station and the Heathrow Express station are entirely separate. TfL Rail trains run from the Heathrow Express stations. Currently TfL Rail trains only run from Terminal 4 and Terminals 2&3, but Crossrail will run from Terminal 5 too. Heathrow Express trains run every 15 minutes from Terminal 5 to Terminals 2&3, then non-stop to Paddington. TfL Rail trains run every 30 minutes from Terminal 4 to Terminals 2&3, then stop five times on the way to Paddington. Additional shuttles run between Terminal 4 and Terminals 2&3 in the gaps. Travel between terminals at Heathrow is free.

The management of Heathrow Express would definitely prefer you to buy a ticket, and lock in your choice, rather than wandering down to the platform using Oyster or contactless. Sales kiosks and ticket machines are everywhere, whereas mention of the new card trick is minimal.



• At Terminal 5, pictured, a bank of ticket machines has a prominent position in the Arrivals hall. Signage gives equal prominence to TfL Rail and Heathrow Express. The tube map posted up nearby hasn't been updated since January 2016, so doesn't show the TfL Rail link to Paddington.
• At Terminal 4, the ticket machines are supervised by a 'helpful' member of Heathrow Express staff.
• At Terminal 3, a Heathrow Express sales kiosk has been placed within the Arrivals funnel, immediately before the exit (where taxi drivers stand holding handwritten signs).
• At Terminal 2, a bank of ticket machines has a prominent position in the Arrivals hall and is staffed by several Heathrow Express staff. The machines once sold Heathrow Connect tickets, but do not sell TfL Rail tickets.

Terminals 2 and 3 are interesting because they're linked by a very long pedestrian passageway, with the Heathrow Express and tube stations positioned somewhere inbetween. Those walking from Terminal 3 get to the Heathrow Express station first, but those walking from Terminal 2 get to the tube station first. There's always a risk passengers will take the first train they reach, which perhaps explains why Terminal 2 is packed with Heathrow Express ticket machines and Terminal 3 isn't. Staff also attend kiosks outside the entrances to both stations. "Anyone else for the fast train to London?"



But what if you slip through the net and decide to use contactless? At the point of passing through the ticket barriers you could still be about to use either TfL Rail or Heathrow Express services, because payment won't be taken until the other end of your journey, and at Paddington the trains use different platforms with different barriers. It's therefore in Heathrow Express's interest to nudge you onto one of their trains if they possibly can.


During a typical hour at Heathrow Terminals 2&3, departures for Paddington run like this.
xx03  Heathrow Express
xx18  Heathrow Express
xx28  TfL Rail
xx33  Heathrow Express
xx48  Heathrow Express
xx58  TfL Rail
Most of the time the next train out is a Heathrow Express train, so staff don't need to worry. But for two ten-minute periods every hour the next train out is a TfL Rail train, and this presents a window of risk. I didn't hear anybody telling outright lies like Alastair did when he passed through, but I did observe an intriguing, and carefully choreographed, charade.

At the start of the ten minute 'danger period' the member of staff on the platform announced "The next train to arrive will be your TfL Rail stopping service". This was repeated several times until the stopping train arrived, accompanied by "This is not the Heathrow Express service" and "Heathrow Express passengers remain on the platform". Fair enough, if you've paid £12 extra you don't want to get on the wrong train. But anyone paying by contactless, especially anyone with a poor grasp of English, might well be encouraged to wait.

During the preceding ten minute period a pair of Heathrow Express staff also worked their way down the platform speaking to every group of passengers in turn. "Hello Sir, are you taking TfL Rail or the Heathrow Express service?" There's a good reason for asking, which is that TfL Rail trains stop at the far end of the platform so you might need to move down, but it's also a useful opportunity for staff to firm up travel choices. I said I was travelling by TfL Rail and was directed to Zone A. I'm not sure what would have happened if I'd said I was undecided.



No such routine is undertaken at Terminal 5, nor is it needed. No TfL Rail trains serve Terminal 5, only the Heathrow Express, so staff can generally rely on unfamiliar passengers staying aboard and not getting out at Terminals 2&3 to change to the cheaper service. Terminal 4 is the complete opposite, served only by TfL Rail and not by Heathrow Express. Every contactless passenger who gets off the shuttle at Terminals 2&3 and can be cajoled onto the Heathrow Express is a financial win.

I saw no evidence of direct nudging, and all the announcements I heard were scrupulously worded to ensure they provided useful information. But Alastair's experience on Tuesday evening was very different, indeed verging on the fraudulent, suggesting that not all the platform staff are as well behaved as those I observed. At best, the entire set-up is ripe for confusion.

Things can only get more cut-throat when Crossrail starts up properly and trains start running through central London, because only a fool would pay £12 extra for a service terminating at Paddington... but that's one to watch whenever it eventually happens.


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan21  Feb21  Mar21  Apr21  May21  Jun21
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20  Aug20  Sep20  Oct20  Nov20  Dec20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

» my flickr photostream

twenty blogs
853
arseblog
ian visits
londonist
blue witch
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
linkmachinego
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
the ladies who bus
round the rails we go
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel
from the murky depths
exploring urban wastelands

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
Things to do outside London
Inner London toilet map
The DG Tour of Britain
#coronavirus

read the archive
Jun21  May21
Apr21  Mar21  Feb21  Jan21
Dec20  Nov20  Oct20  Sep20
Aug20  Jul20  Jun20  May20
Apr20  Mar20  Feb20  Jan20
Dec19  Nov19  Oct19  Sep19
Aug19  Jul19  Jun19  May19
Apr19  Mar19  Feb19  Jan19
Dec18  Nov18  Oct18  Sep18
Aug18  Jul18  Jun18  May18
Apr18  Mar18  Feb18  Jan18
Dec17  Nov17  Oct17  Sep17
Aug17  Jul17  Jun17  May17
Apr17  Mar17  Feb17  Jan17
Dec16  Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2020 2019 2018 2017 2016
2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
2010 2009 2008 2007 2006
2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
Herbert Dip
metro-land
capital ring
river fleet
piccadilly
bakerloo

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
boredom
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters
iceland

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
thunderbirds
routemaster
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
amsterdam
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
typewriters
doctor who
coronation
comments
blue peter
matchgirls
hurricanes
buzzwords
brookside
monopoly
peter pan
starbucks
feng shui
leap year
manbags
bbc three
vision on
piccadilly
meridian
concorde
wembley
islington
ID cards
bedtime
freeview
beckton
blogads
eclipses
letraset
arsenal
sitcoms
gherkin
calories
everest
muffins
sudoku
camilla
london
ceefax
robbie
becks
dome
BBC2
paris
lotto
118
itv