London’s Elizabeth Line vs Heathrow Express

London’s new Elizabeth Line offers a welcome alternative to the Heathrow Express.

By David Flynn, September 14 2023
London’s Elizabeth Line vs Heathrow Express

London’s Heathrow Express no longer holds the monopoly on fast, efficient train travel between Heathrow Airport and the city.

The new Elizabeth Line is not only quick enough for most people, it’s also more affordable and gets you to more places in London without the hassle of changing trains at Paddington.

The Heathrow Express rockets between Heathrow – specifically Terminals 2, 3 and 5 – and Paddington in around 15 minutes, and trains run every quarter-hour.

The Heathrow Express is fast and frequent, but you pay for the privilege.
The Heathrow Express is fast and frequent, but you pay for the privilege.

But Heathrow and Paddington are the only stops – so if you need to go further afield that Paddington, you’ll have to change trains (indeed, making your way from the HEX platform at Paddington’s regional line platforms down to the underground Tube platforms).

By comparison, the Elizabeth line – previously known as the Crossrail project – reaches across greater London.

The new Elizabeth Line connects Heathrow to dozens of stations across greater London.
The new Elizabeth Line connects Heathrow to dozens of stations across greater London.

Trains run from all four Heathrow terminals (using the Heathrow Express platforms and tunnels) eastwards to six ‘core’ underground stations – including Paddington, Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road and Liverpool Street – and then continue to the Canary Wharf business district and beyond.

All six of those key stations, and several others along the Elizabeth Line, also serve as interchange stations for eight popular Tube lines as well as the Overground and DLR lines and regional Network Rail services. 

Clearly, the Elizabeth Line wins for convenience.

The modern Elizabeth Line trains include a variety of seating and free WiFi.
The modern Elizabeth Line trains include a variety of seating and free WiFi.

Under the current timetable there’s one Elizabeth Line train every 15 minutes to and from Heathrow Terminals 2 and 3, but only one every half-hour to Terminal 4 and Terminal 5 (you can browse the complete Elizabeth Line timetable at the Transport for London website).

With six stops between Heathrow and Paddington, that trip on the Elizabeth Line takes 30-40 minutes – so it’s clearly not as zippy as the Heathrow Express.

The new Elizabeth Line connects Heathrow to dozens of stations across greater London.
The new Elizabeth Line connects Heathrow to dozens of stations across greater London.

But it’s still relatively speedy, as well as being very comfortable.

The new Elizabeth line carriages sport a variety of seating from metro-style ‘transverse’ rows to more conventional forward/backwards seats – although as this is a commuter train rather than a dedicated airport train, there are no baggage areas.

Choose a seat to suit, but you'll have to keep your luggage close at hand.
Choose a seat to suit, but you'll have to keep your luggage close at hand.

And if you need to jump online during your ride, both the Heathrow Express and Elizabeth Line trains offer free WiFi.

So how do the fares compare?

The Elizabeth Line uses the same zone-based charges as Tube services, except when it comes to Heathrow Airport, which attracts a £7.20 surcharge for use of the airport’s rail tunnels and infrastructure.

That means a one-way trip between Heathrow and Paddington (or any other central Zone 1 station) will cost £12.70 – for which you can use your Oyster card or any tap-and-go card, along with Apple Pay and Google Pay on your smartphone.

That compares to £25 on the Heathrow Express, unless you buy a £37 return ticket (which cuts the one-way fare to £18.50) – although if you can book at least 90 days in advance, the one-way fare is slashed to an insanely low £5.50.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 716

The Elizabeth Line train will still be faster than a cab, Uber or other similar service.  That's a BIG tick from me!

04 Dec 2013

Total posts 154

Not to forget the Picadilly Line - which depending on where you're coming from is a long but very straightforward way to the airport.  

22 May 2011

Total posts 89

Interesting how the 7.20 quid airport surcharge fee is more than the 5.50 quid early bird Heathrow express ticket!

06 Oct 2021

Total posts 6

It will be interesting to see how much it erodes the LCY market.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Jul 2020

Total posts 7

From a public transport only perspective Heathrow Express is only ever worth it if living / staying in Paddington, and you could walk from the station. If you then paid for the tube to go onwards you may as well have caught the Piccadilly Line from the start. With a £7.20 access charge for Elizabeth Line, I wonder if this will, in time, be imposed on Piccadilly Line users? Certainly hope not, we've enjoyed what is now just £1.90p single journey tube fares from LHR to our Zone 2 office for 27 years!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

12 Jan 2017

Total posts 23

Living in South London, I'll still be utilising the Piccadilly Line to get to Heathrow. I did use the Elizabeth Line once when it opened, but unfortunately the time saving of about 5 mins doesn't justify the (SYD equivalent) airport surcharge.

If your travel is to Central London or Canary Wharf, then it is a vast improvement over the Heathrow Express or the old TfL rail service that the Elizabeth line replaces to Paddington. However, the convenience of LCY for continental locations and security lockout only 15 mins before your flight rather than 40 at Heathrow is still a winner.

26 Oct 2017

Total posts 25

The Piccadilly line, while cheap, has always involved a struggle with suitcases for me. There's very little space for luggage and if you arrive at Heathrow at peak commuter time, the Piccadilly journey is uncomfortable in the extreme.

I used the Elizabeth line early October and it was excellent, except due to the National Rail Strike (it was on that day) timings were all over the place. For value as my learned friend from Aust Cricket Tours stated, you can't beat the Piccadilly line, unless you have a marvelous Senior's Oyster card, and then the trip to LHR on Liz line was completely free! However you have to be a London resident to qualify for this. I am actually based in Oz, so don't tell TFL ...

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Oct 2012

Total posts 44

I used the Elizabeth line when I visited during Oct - Nov as I stayed in Paddington and also had to get across the city. It was great.  It's a good option if it's convenient to your destination.  My rationale was you sit on a plane for over 24 hrs so why pay a premium for the Heathrow Express for a small saving of time.  Have used the Piccadilly and Express lines previously, but will use this new option more often now.  

Cathay Pacific - Asia Miles

25 Apr 2013

Total posts 542

Not as enthused as everyone else - the Lizzie is a great addition to the TfL network, but specifically for Heathrow, it's not cheap enough to compete with the Piccadilly or fast enough to compete with Heathrow Express. It just ends up being a slow middle ground which is fine if you live in Tottenham Court Road or Stratford, but most people don't.

23 Apr 2023

Total posts 1

Is it easy to transfer from Elizabeth Line to Canary Wharf Ferry? Seems like it might be best way to get to hotel Dockland Riverside, unless a long walk from train to ferry.

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 411

The best way to check this is on the super handy Rome2Rio website or app. Enter your starting point as say Heathrow and your end point as the hotel, station, ferry wharf, landmark etc and the site shows you all the journey options.

24 Apr 2014

Total posts 271

For Australians visiting London, it's very handy to know that if you have purchased a BritRail pass, it's valid on the Elizabeth Line, but not the Heathrow Express. That saves you a lot of dough.

20 May 2023

Total posts 1

Ive recently purchased an Oyster card for upcoming travel into Gatwick. Will this line potentially be a part of my transit into the City?

Potentially, yes, but it depends on how you plan to get  from Gatwick into the city. There's a Gatwick Express and some 'regional' lines, these can get to you Farringdon and that's on the Lizzie Line, as well as the Circle, Hammersmith and Metropolitan, and which one of these you catch depends on exactly where you are trying to get to. Try the Rome2Rio website or app for options, it will show you all the various ways to get can from A to B.

07 Dec 2012

Total posts 6

If you book Heathrow Express before hand the price can be 25% of the walk up price (you can use any train on a specific date)

Cathay Pacific - The Marco Polo Club

28 Oct 2015

Total posts 12

definitely choose Elizabeth Line, which enjoys Hong Kong's MTR services abroad.

Hi Guest, join in the discussion on London’s Elizabeth Line vs Heathrow Express