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Heathrow Express is an airport rail link between London Heathrow Airport and Paddington. It opened in 1998 and is an open access operator. The service is operated by Heathrow Express Operating Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Heathrow Airport Holdings, with some aspects of the operation now delivered by Great Western Railway.[1]

Heathrow Express
332006 Paddington to Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 1T63 (26647726780).jpg
Franchise(s)Great Western Railway
Main route(s)London PaddingtonHeathrow Airport
Other route(s)None
Fleet size14 Class 332 electric multiple units
Stations called at3
Stations operated4
National Rail abbreviationHX
Parent companyHeathrow Airport Holdings


Original First Class interior
Original Standard Class interior

Heathrow Express was planned as a joint venture between BAA and British Rail, but was taken over fully by the former following the privatisation of British Rail.[2] Construction began in 1993. The principal works were two 5-mile single-bore tunnels (including eight escape shafts) and underground stations at Heathrow Central and Terminal 4. Electrification of the Great Western Main Line (GWML) between Paddington and Airport Junction, where the new line diverged from the GWML, was also required. A flying junction known as Stockley Flyover was constructed to connect the tunnel to the GWML fast lines. Beginning in January 1998, an interim service called Heathrow FastTrain ran to a temporary station called Heathrow Junction, where a coach took passengers the rest of the way. The full service began on 23 June 1998, with four trains per hour running in each direction, operated using Class 332 electric multiple units built by Siemens Mobility.

From 1999 to 2003, a check-in service was provided at Paddington Station, allowing Heathrow Express passengers to check in and drop off their luggage prior to flights, which was similar to the service currently provided on Hong Kong Airport Express. Checked baggage was transported to the airport by using the luggage space at the westbound first carriage. This service was withdrawn due to low usage and high cost of operation.[3][4]

In 2005, a service called Heathrow Connect was started, operating a twice-hourly stopping service along the route using Class 360 Desiro EMUs.[2] In 2008, Heathrow Express was diverted to serve the new Terminal 5 in lieu of Terminal 4.

The company employs 160 staff, who work in Airport Terminals and on board the trains.[2] Heathrow Airport Holdings have an agreement with Network Rail for access paths on the GWML until 2028.[5]


Heathrow Express
Route tph Intermediate stops Stock
London Paddington to Heathrow Terminal 5 4 Heathrow Central 332

Trains depart Paddington every 15 minutes from 05:10 (06:10 on Sunday) until 23:25,[6] and there is a similar quarter-hourly service in the return direction. At Paddington they use dedicated platforms 6 and 7, although on occasions other platforms are used. There are two stops at Heathrow: Heathrow Central, serving Terminals 2 and 3 (journey time from Paddington 15 minutes); and Heathrow Terminal 5 (journey time 21 minutes). Until the opening of Terminal 5 on 27 March 2008, Heathrow Express terminated at Heathrow Terminal 4. In 2010, Heathrow Express introduced a dedicated shuttle between Heathrow Central and Terminal 4 that would be timed to connect with the main Heathrow Express service to/from Terminal 5 to improve connections between the terminals.[7]

The service uses Class 332 electric multiple units built by CAF and Siemens Mobility. These incorporate video monitors and the ability to use mobile phones throughout the journey, even in tunnels. The monitors are mostly used for advertising and for news and weather updates produced by BBC World News.

Heathrow Express has been generally well received, not least because steps were taken to reduce the environmental impact, including disguising ventilation shafts as barns.[8] In summer 2013, all units were refurbished inside and out, including new seating configurations, luggage storage and at-seat power.

In May 2018 TfL Rail replaced the Heathrow Connect stopping service which was jointly operated by Heathrow Express and GWR.


The service runs along Network Rail's Great Western Main Line from Paddington to Airport Junction. The line from Airport Junction to the airport terminals is owned by Heathrow Airport Holdings but maintained by Network Rail. The line is electrified at 25 kV AC overhead and uses Automatic Train Protection (ATP). The controlling signalbox for the entire route is the Thames Valley Signalling Centre (TVSC) in Didcot.


Station Image Time
Paddington   0 mins
Heathrow Central   15 mins
Heathrow Terminal 5   21 mins

Rolling stockEdit

Class Image Type Top speed Carriages Number Routes operated Built
 mph   km/h 
Class 332   EMU 100 160 4 9 London PaddingtonHeathrow Terminal 5 1997–1998
5 5

Future fleetEdit

Great Western Railway plan to replace the existing Class 332 units with a specially modified pool of its own Class 387 EMUs by December 2019. This will mean that Heathrow Express will no longer need to find a new depot after it vacates Old Oak Common.[1]

Class Image Type Top speed Carriages Number Routes operated Built
 mph   km/h 
Class 387   EMU 110 175 4 12 London PaddingtonHeathrow Terminal 5 2015-2017

Past FleetEdit

Former units operated by Heathrow Express include:

Class Image Type Top speed Number Carriages Notes Built Withdrawn Number
 mph   km/h 
Class 360 Desiro   EMU 100 160 1 5 Transferred to TfL Rail 2002-2005 May 2018 360205

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "GWR to manage Heathrow Express service". Railway Gazette. 28 March 2018. Retrieved 28 March 2018.
  2. ^ a b c Fender, Keith (February 2014). "Heathrow's Billion Pound Railway". Modern Railways. Key Publishing: 52–57.
  3. ^ Clark, Andrew (7 July 2003). "BAA's Paddington check-in faces axe". the Guardian. Retrieved 18 March 2018.
  4. ^ Peter Fox (March 1998). "Heathrow Express Starts Public Service". Today's Railways. Platform 5 Publishing Limited: 27–29.
  5. ^ Heathrow Express, United Kingdom Railway Technology
  6. ^ "Heathrow Express times". Heathrow Express. 2016. Retrieved 26 July 2016.
  7. ^ "UK News in Brief". Railway Herald. Scunthorpe. 29 June 2010. p. 6.
  8. ^ "Heathrow Express takes off". BBC News. 23 June 1998. Retrieved 6 August 2016.

Further readingEdit

  • "Heathrow Express starts running public services to Airport Junction". RAIL. No. 323. EMAP Apex Publications. 28 January – 10 February 1998. p. 6. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699.
  • Haigh, Phil (11–24 March 1998). "Take the FastTrain for Heathrow". RAIL. No. 326. EMAP Apex Publications. pp. 58–62. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699.
  • "Heathrow Express starts direct service to airport". RAIL. No. 333. EMAP Apex Publications. 17–30 June 1998. p. 17. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699.

External linksEdit

  Media related to Heathrow Express at Wikimedia Commons