We've long wondered how Heathrow Express will compete with the Elizabeth line, once it's up and running. Tickets for less than half the price of the usual fare might be one way.
Heathrow Express — which runs shuttles every 15 minutes between Paddington and Heathrow terminals — recently announced that one-way advance £5.50 fares will now be available Monday to Friday.
Previously, the cheapest weekday travel available was £12.50 (and you needed to book a crazy 90 days in advance for this), followed by £16.50 (booked minimum 14 days in advance).
This will be music to the ears of five million passengers who use the weekday services every year. The 15-minute journey time (between Paddington and Heathrow Terminals 1 and 2) will be marginally faster than the Elizabeth line, when it's up and running (where the same journey will be 22 minutes). And peak Elizabeth line fares from zone 1 to Heathrow will cost £12.50 (£10.10 off peak). That's more than Heathrow Express's cheapest fare. So far, that sounds positive for Heathrow Express's chances of being passengers' service of choice.
BUT. On a TfL daily travel card, £12.50 will be the most you can spend in one day — meaning other tube and bus services that day (zones 1-6) will effectively be free. Also: plenty of Elizabeth line passengers will take the opportunity of travelling to/from another zone 1 station from the airport, rather than Paddington. That's an option that Heathrow Express can't offer.
And bear in mind: not all Heathrow Express singles will be £5.50 — they're subject to availability, and range between that lower bracket and £16.50 (which is what a lot of customers were already paying, and will be more than using the Elizabeth line).
Heathrow Express tells Londonist that its new fares are NOT in response to the Elizabeth line's imminent arrival. But let's be honest: the only way Heathrow Express will continue to be profitable is by offering competitive fares.
Les Freer, Heathrow Express Director, said:
Rolling out our £5.50 one-way fare across the week means thousands more customers can travel for less with Heathrow Express. Speed and convenience is crucial to Heathrow Express customers who have rated us top in the National Rail Passenger Survey three times in a row and our new website and app delivers on these too.
Tickets can be booked either through the new Heathrow Express website, or app (both now available in five languages additional to English).
£5.50 weekend tickets were previously available on the service and continue to be so; Heathrow Express tells Londonist there are no plans to roll out fares for any less than this.