Heathrow Express cuts prices ahead of Crossrail opening (but there's a catch)

Emma Cooke
The Heathrow Express has long been criticised for its sky high fares - Construction Photography/Avalon

The Heathrow Express is notorious for being the most expensive rail service in Britain, but a new price cut has made the premium rail link more affordable – if booked in advance. 

The 15-mile journey from London Paddington to Heathrow Airport takes just 15 minutes, but an anytime one-way fare is £25. This works out as over £1.60 per mile.

For those willing to travel outside rush hour a £3 saving can be made, with off-peak singles coming in at £22. A further saving is available by purchasing an Anytime Return, which costs £37 – or £18.50 each way. 

Savvy travellers have been able to secure tickets costing £12.50 for weekday travel since 2016 by booking three months in advance. This price has now been slashed to just £5.50 for travel on every day of the week, but they must be booked at least 90 days in advance.

Once these £5.50 rates are fully booked, prices will increase incrementally to £16.50, depending on availability. 

London's new Crossrail brings an end to the Heathrow Express market monopoly Credit: Getty

However, any more recent travel remains £25 for a single ticket or £37 for a return, continuing to leave unprepared travellers out of pocket. 

While most would categorise “advance booking” as a week or two ahead of schedule, this isn’t the case for Heathrow Express.

A search by The Telegraph found that two single tickets didn’t come to less than the £37 return unless booked at least 16 days in advance. A £15 rate became available on November 6. 

Prices dipped to £7.50 for a single ticket only when booked at least a month in advance. The very first £5.50 fare is available approximately three months in advance, appearing on January 21. 

Despite being a welcome addition, these cheap rates do not benefit spontaneous travellers who have booked last-minute getaways.

Cheaper options are available to passengers needing to get to the London airport at shorter notice, with travel on the London Underground costing up to £6 each way and National Express coach services starting at £6. 

But these options are significantly slower, both taking an average of 45 minutes to reach Heathrow from Central London. 

The Heathrow Express has been the only fast link to the airport since its opening in 1998, but the arrival of the new Crossrail or Elizabeth Line will end this monopoly. 

Despite Crossrail running two years behind its original planned opening in December 2018, concerns around the effect of the new line are believed to have sparked the Heathrow Express fare cut.

Crossrail will run through central London and offer direct routes to Heathrow from stations including Liverpool Street, Canary Wharf and Bond Street. Furthermore, prices will be in line with Transport for London Underground fare zones.

Currently a single to Heathrow on the Tube costs £6 cash, £5.10 contactless during peak times, or £3.10 contactless off-peak. 

Crossrail is expected to open between October 2020 and March 2021.

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