Heathrow has announced its ambition to run its Express service to Slough and Reading along a new link from the Great Western Main line, due to be built by 2021.
The Great Western Main Line currently runs from Swansea, through Cardiff, before going on to Reading and London Paddington.
Under plans announced by Network Rail last week, a new rail link will join the main line directly to Heathrow, meaning rail passengers travelling from the west will no longer have to double-back on themselves via Paddington.
Heathrow Express is looking to operate services on the link between Heathrow, Reading and Slough, which would see journey times to the hub airport reduce from 55 minutes to under 30 for passengers journeying from Reading, and from 40 minutes to 10 from Slough.
Western route access
The decision on who will operate on Western Rail access rests with the Department for Transport. Heathrow will make the case that passengers, employees and taxpayers would benefit from the agreement, citing its consistently strong record for operating the existing service - Heathrow Express recently topped the National Rail Passenger Survey, with a score of 96%.
Heathrow is already the best connected airport in the UK, served by fast and frequent rail services in to London by Heathrow Express, Heathrow Connect and the Piccadilly Line, as well as more direct access to the M3, the M25, the M40 and the M4. The new western rail link is one of a range of proposed and committed measures building on that strength.
These include: Crossrail, which will replace Heathrow Connect and link Heathrow to the City, Canary Wharf and East London in 2019; the new HS2 rail line, which will provide fast access to Heathrow from the Midlands and the North; and the Southern Rail link, currently subject to further study at the request of the Airports Commission, which would reduce journey times between the South Coast, South and South West of London, in to Heathrow.
Taken together, just 17 miles of new track could open up 2,000 miles of the rail network to Heathrow’s passengers, transforming journey times to major cities across the UK and bringing 4.5 million more people within 60 minutes of the airport.
Simon Earles, Head of Surface Access for Heathrow, said: “Heathrow is already in a better location for passengers and businesses than any other UK airport. Western rail access builds on that strength by cutting journey times dramatically for passengers. As Heathrow Express continues to set the standard on speed, efficiency and service for customers, it is the natural choice to operate a service on this line.”
Keith Greenfield, managing director for Heathrow Express, said: “Western rail access is the next logical step for the more than 70 million people a year who pass through Heathrow, and it is also a crucial strand in the plan to secure the future of Heathrow Express."
The plans will be formally announced at Heathrow’s Transport Conference, which will see the launch of its integrated transport plan over the next five years.
Notes to editors:
For more information contact Simon Evans in the Heathrow Express press office on - 07720 340660
Heathrow Express is a non-stop, premium service specifically designed to meet the needs of airport passengers and employees. It carries 17,000 customers a day on average between London Paddington with Heathrow in just 15 minutes, every 15 minutes. In 2013 its customer volumes grew by 5.1% Heathrow as operated between London Paddington and Heathrow since 1998.
If approved, the Slough and Reading service would operate from an existing station beneath Terminal 5. Additional capacity, with future western rail access in mind, was built in to Heathrow Express’s Terminal 5 station, which opened in 2008. Next to the platforms currently in use lie two spare platforms ready to be brought into operation as soon as the new Slough-bound track is complete.
The quality of its current Paddington-to-Heathrow service topped the “customer satisfaction” category of the Autumn 2013 National Rail Passenger Survey (NRPS) with a score of 96%, confirming Heathrow Express as airport shareholders’ preferred bidder to run on the new western spur.
Western Rail Access will result in a potential time saving of up to 53 minutes for passengers boarding in Swansea, and 45 minutes for passengers coming from Cardiff.