Heathrow Express has stood down its stalwart Class 332 trains that it uses to connect London Paddington to the Heathrow Terminals.
The trains were introduced in 1997, built by Siemens and CAF, initially operating “Heathrow FastTrain” to Heathrow Junction in January 1998 and then operating the full “Heathrow Express” service later in June 1998. Since then, the 14 trainsets built for the route have shuttled between London Paddington to Heathrow Terminals, consisting of either four or five carriages.
However, after 22 years of service, it is time to say goodbye to these trains.
There’s a lot of changes going on in London with HS2 being a primary driver. The part of the depot where these trains were based at (Old Oak Common), is to be demolished as part of the HS2 works. In addition, Heathrow Express operations were taken over by GWR in 2018, which drove the case for “new” trains.
What replaces them?
As part of the change, 12 Class 387 trains will be allocated to work the Heathrow Express route.
The trains have been refurbished with new seats, offering “Express Class” and “Business First”. Whilst these are not “new” trains (ie fresh of the production line), they have been in service since September 2016.
What about the old trains?
One of the class has already been scrapped (which had been out of service for some time).
As for the rest of the units, their fate may be very similar. Whilst there are some shortages of train types in the UK (especially diesel multiple units), there is a glut of Electrical Multiple Units that have come off lease, as new trains come on stream (with older units being stored). As such, there is no home for these trains to go.
The trains are also missing a core signalling feature – TPWS (Train Protection and Warning System). Whilst it used Automatic Train Protection on the Great Western Main Line, the type had an exemption not to have TWPS fitted through its life.
As such, that limits what these trains can do in the future and where they operate (let alone the cost to install and test these systems).
Sadly, the cutters torch will probably be the outcome for these trains
I have a few. Normally wincing hard when I was running late and Heathrow Express was the only way to get to Marylebone in time and paying the excessive fares. The seats were pretty nice for a train, with good comfort and padding
The other memories I have are normally near the vestibule area, transferring between Terminal 5 and Terminal 2/3 for the Heathrow Connect (now TfL Rail/Elizabeth Line).
What about TfL Rail/Crossrail/Elizabeth Line?
Editors note: Whilst Boris Johnson as Mayor of London might had branded it “Elizabeth Line”, Crossrail actually describes it a lot better. But here we are, talking about Purple Trains on a line that has an idenity crisis… the least of its problems.
Whilst the Elizabeth Line/Crossrail is still some time away (with plans to open in now stretching into 2022), it will offer something that Heathrow Express can’t offer – a one-seat ride into the heart of London.
At the moment, Heathrow Express is great if you want to be west of Trafalgar Square – however, there are issues as currently, you’d be enjoying at least a two-seat ride (either Heathrow Express/Taxi or Heathrow Express/Underground) into the heart of the city and beyond. In addition, going further east, the Piccadilly Line becomes a lot more effective (and cost-friendly too).
Elizabeth Line/Crossrail will change that, with stops in the heart of London, including stops at Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road and Farringdon, with a branch to go out to Canary Wharf and Abbey Wood, providing a one-seat ride between the business district and Heathrow.
For a lot of travellers (when they return), that could be a very compelling option.
Heathrow Express is currently contracted to operate through to 2028 – it’ll be interesting if there is still an appetite for a premium service in the future.
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