Is using the Heathrow Express worth it?

Last Updated on 11 August 2022 by Dan

Hello everyone! If you’re arrived into London via Heathrow airport anytime recently, you’ll notice that much of the entry point back into the country makes a concerted effort to direct you via the Heathrow Express, marketed as the fastest way into central London.

However is the touted speed of the journey on a Heathrow Express worth it for the cost, and how do the alternatives stack up against it?

All information is accurate at time of writing, but please note London’s transport system is always subject to potential changes!

What tube and train routes are available from Heathrow to London?

There are three main train or tube options to get between Central London and Heathrow:

  • Using the Heathrow Express to Paddington (Fastest but most expensive)
  • Using the Elizabeth Line to Paddington (Slightly slower, but about half the price). This route has been also known as Heathrow Connect and TfL Rail at various points.
  • Using the Piccadilly Line to various central London stops (well connected for points of Central London beyond Paddington, much slower but much cheaper).

Heathrow Express cost comparison

How much does the Heathrow Express cost?

We’re going to provide detail here for an “on the day” price for a standard class ticket, however we cover below that you can book the Heathrow Express in advance for considerable savings.

An anytime standard class single journey on the Heathrow Express is £25 on the day, or £37 if purchasing a return trip.

Alternatives to the Heathrow Express

How much does the Elizabeth line cost to/from Heathrow?

A journey on the Elizabeth Line is £11.50 at peak times, and £10.80 at off peak times.

How much does the Elizabeth line cost to/from Heathrow?

A journey on the Piccadilly Line route to central London is £5.50 at peak times, or £3.50 at off peak times.

Heathrow Express Speed Comparison

How long is the journey time on the Heathrow Express?

The claim of the Heathrow Express to be the fastest service into central London is true – it runs a fairly regular service leaving 15 minutes with a direct train to Paddington (where you’ll need to take a another service to your destination).

Once on the Heathrow Express, it’s a 15 minute journey into Paddington in Central London. If you’re heading onwards on public transport, you’ll need to pay additional costs for this.

Heathrow Express alternative tube

What are journey times on alternatives to the Heathrow Express?

How fast is the Elizabeth line to/from Heathrow?

Services from Paddington to Heathrow on the Elizabeth Line presently run six trains an hours with a journey time of approximately 35 minutes. At the moment, whilst the Elizabeth Line does run beyond Paddington you will need to change trains to go further down the line.

The Elizabeth line folllows the same overall route as the Heathrow Express, but stops off at a number of local stations in-between.

How fast is the Piccadilly line to/from Heathrow?

This is a slightly trickier question as it depends where you are getting the Piccadilly Line from! Using South Kensington as a example, the journey takes approximately 42 minutes.

Piccadilly line trains from Heathrow are approximately every 10 minutes, but may vary based on the time of day.

Are there other benefits to using the Heathrow Express?

Not really!

There’s specific room for luggage, but in standard class it’s really not that different from an ordinary train.

You’ll find similar amounts of room if not more on the Elizabeth Line trains. The Piccadilly Line trains are significantly more cramped and can be busy, especially when travelling through the main bits of Central London.

Can you save money on the Heathrow Express?

As you may be gathering, we think the Heathrow Express is pretty expensive for the service it offers.

However, where it can represent much better value is when buying a ticket 90 days in advance for a specified day of travel, which means a ticket can be booked for only £5.50 for a one-way journey.

This ticket can be used at any time of day, but must be used on the date selected.

You can buy the advance tickets at the Heathrow Express website – just change the ticket setting to “single”.

This requires a little bit of planning, but changes the Heathrow Express to being one of the most expensive ways to getting to London to one of the cheapest – although note you’ll still need to pay for any onward travel beyond Paddington.

If you’re going to be using the Heathrow Express on a regular basis, another option is to buy a “carnet” of tickets where you purchase multiple flexible tickets in advance at a reduced price – just go through the normal ticket buying process specifying the first date you’d like to travel, and the option of the carnet can be found on the ticket types screen.

So is using the Heathrow Express worth it?

We’d generally struggle to recommend using the Heathrow Express unless you need real speed and are going to the Paddington area. Whilst it does what it claims in being the quickest journey into Central London, the alternatives are only slightly slower but at a significantly different price point, particularly since the Elizabeth Line has opened.

However, for the planners amongst you we’d caveat that with the fact that we think the advance ticket offer does represent genuinely good value, and if you know you have a flight upcoming in more than 90 days where you can make it a logical part of your route, we’d actually say it’s a recommended option.

What is the best public transport route into Central London from Heathrow?

With regard to if you should take the Elizabeth Line or the Piccadilly line as an alternative – it depends on your end destination. The Elizabeth line is quicker and much more comfortable, but the Piccadilly Line carries on to a number of central London destinations that may mean a more direct journey.

Once the Elizabeth line becomes a direct and continuous journey into Central London and doesn’t need a change at Paddington, we think this is likely to be the preferential option for most people.

Other questions relating to the Heathrow Express

Can I use a railcard on Heathrow Express services

Yes you can where your railcard is eligible. (Also, check out our guide to if UK railcards are worth it!)

Can I use an Oyster or Contactless Card on the Heathrow Express?

Yes, you can use Oyster or Contactless on the Heathrow Express

Is Business First Class on the Heathrow Express worth it?

You get slightly more space and magazines, but for a 15 minute journey it’s hard to see any extra cost as being justifiable on the journey alone.

One potential benefit of Business First Class however may be that when travelling to Heathrow, you can use Fast Track Security. I haven’t used this myself, so can’t comment on how much of a benefit it is, so I’d really welcome any comments and feedback from those who have.

Where do I catch the Heathrow Express?

You’ll see signs for trains in the airport and the Heathrow Express specifically it’s generally well marked out, but it leaves from platforms found under both Terminal 5 and Terminals 2/3.

Heathrow Express Platform sign

What are the Heathrow Express opening hours?

The first Heathrow Express train of the day leaves at 5.17, with the last being at 23.59.

Any questions?

We’d love to hear if you’ve got any of your own experiences with the Heathrow Express or have any questions – just leave us a note in the comments below!

And that’s it!

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