Heathrow Express services from Paddington will all depart from Platform 7 from December 15, potentially increasing queue times at ticket barriers for some months.
The reduction from two platforms (6 and 7) to one will remain in force until the opening of the new subterranean Elizabeth Line station at Paddington, which may take over a year.
At the World Travel Market in London, Heathrow Express Head of Commercial Chris Crauford told Business Traveller that while they wouldn’t have chosen the move to a single platform, it was for the “greater good of the rail industry”.
At the same time, Great Western Railway’s new timetable will come into effect on December 15, adding additional services from Paddington to the west country.
With Crossrail (the other name for the Elizabeth Line) running overground services to Heathrow, capacity at Paddington will be “hugely constrained” until it moves underground, Crauford said.
“At the moment there will always be a train waiting for you at Platform 6 or Platform 7, and we see that as a really great proposition,” he said.
“Whatever time you get there you can sit on your train, relax, you’re at Heathrow essentially. Now for a period of time, it will be just one platform.
“We are conscious that the gate lines are there, and we know this could make that situation worse because of shorter turnarounds. So we are working to make those better and have been doing pedestrian flow analysis and looking at options such as extra staff at Paddington.”
Queues had already been appearing due to passengers now being required to pass through ticket barriers.
Crauford said that while Heathrow Express would like to see people able to walk straight onto the train and have their ticket inspected, this had also been impacted by Crossrail.
The services share a line out of Heathrow, and so Transport for London – which runs Crossrail – required barriers to be put in so that people could tap in and out using Oyster, which costs £10.50 for a single to the airport.
But there are positives to the change, Crauford added, giving people the choice to not queue for a ticket and just use contactless or their Carnet card.
However, tapping in and out with a payment card (it is not possible to use Oyster for Heathrow Express as it is not part of Transport for London) charges the maximum single journey fare of £22 for off-peak and £25 for peak.
Heathrow Express says it is now looking to promote the availability of lower fares.
It recently extended its lowest advance fare of £5.50 to anytime on weekdays, when booked 90 days in advance. Advance fares are also available for £7.50, £10.00, £12.50, £15.00 or £16.50.