Heathrow Express (HEx) rail service has been preserved to at least 2028 under a new agreement between Heathrow Airport and FirstGroup subsidiary, Great Western Railway (GWR). The agreement was approved by the Department for Transport and will see Heathrow Airport retaining the commercial aspects including marketing, ticket pricing and revenue, while Great Western Railway will run the operational aspects of the Heathrow Express service under a management contract.
As a result of this agreement, a new Heathrow Express Langley depot will no longer be needed. The depot would have been required to service trains because the HS2 building schedule requires HEx to vacate the Old Oak Common depot by the end of 2019.
GWR will manage the introduction of a new, dedicated fleet of trains for the Heathrow Express service, which will be specially converted by December 2019 to provide first class carriages, high speed Wi-Fi, additional luggage racks and on-board entertainment. Until that time the HEx service will continue to be provided by the existing fleet of trains.
“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,” Heathrow Chief Executive John Holland-Kaye said.
Building an integrated transport hub and ensuring at least 50% of Heathrow’s air passengers travel by public transport by 2030 is a priority for Heathrow.
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.