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London’s Heathrow Express no longer holds the monopoly on fast, efficient train travel between Heathrow Airport and the city.
The new Elizabeth Line is not only quick enough for most people, it’s also more affordable and gets you to more places in London without the hassle of changing trains at Paddington.
The Heathrow Express rockets between Heathrow – specifically Terminals 2, 3 and 5 – and Paddington in around 15 minutes, and trains run every quarter-hour.
But Heathrow and Paddington are the only stops – so if you need to go further afield that Paddington, you’ll have to change trains (indeed, making your way from the HEX platform at Paddington’s regional line platforms down to the underground Tube platforms).
By comparison, the Elizabeth line – previously known as the Crossrail project – reaches across greater London.
Trains run from all four Heathrow terminals (using the Heathrow Express platforms and tunnels) eastwards to six ‘core’ underground stations – including Paddington, Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road and Liverpool Street – and then continue to the Canary Wharf business district and beyond.
All six of those key stations, and several others along the Elizabeth Line, also serve as interchange stations for eight popular Tube lines as well as the Overground and DLR lines and regional Network Rail services.
Clearly, the Elizabeth Line wins for convenience.
Under the current timetable there’s one Elizabeth Line train every 15 minutes to and from Heathrow Terminals 2 and 3, but only one every half-hour to Terminal 4 and Terminal 5 (you can browse the complete Elizabeth Line timetable at the Transport for London website).
With six stops between Heathrow and Paddington, that trip on the Elizabeth Line takes 30-40 minutes – so it’s clearly not as zippy as the Heathrow Express.
But it’s still relatively speedy, as well as being very comfortable.
The new Elizabeth line carriages sport a variety of seating from metro-style ‘transverse’ rows to more conventional forward/backwards seats – although as this is a commuter train rather than a dedicated airport train, there are no baggage areas.
And if you need to jump online during your ride, both the Heathrow Express and Elizabeth Line trains offer free WiFi.
So how do the fares compare?
The Elizabeth Line uses the same zone-based charges as Tube services, except when it comes to Heathrow Airport, which attracts a £7.20 surcharge for use of the airport’s rail tunnels and infrastructure.
That means a one-way trip between Heathrow and Paddington (or any other central Zone 1 station) will cost £12.70 – for which you can use your Oyster card or any tap-and-go card, along with Apple Pay and Google Pay on your smartphone.
That compares to £25 on the Heathrow Express, unless you buy a £37 return ticket (which cuts the one-way fare to £18.50) – although if you can book at least 90 days in advance, the one-way fare is slashed to an insanely low £5.50.