Earlier this year, Heathrow Express (HEx) announced an agreement that confirmed the service will continue to operate until at least 2028.
Taking the train to Heathrow Airport is not only quicker and easier, it is much more sustainable than travelling by road, so the agreement is a good one for the environment as well as airline passengers.
The new agreement has been approved by the Department for Transport and sees HEx retaining the commercial aspects of the service, including marketing, ticket pricing and revenue. Great Western Railway (GWR) took on some of the operational aspects of the HEx service under a management contract from November 1, 2018.
As a result of this agreement, the proposed new Langley depot – required because the current train-fleet depot at Old Oak Common is to be demolished to make way for HS2 – will no longer be needed.
Instead, GWR will begin the introduction of a new, dedicated fleet of trains for the HEx service in 2019. These will be specially converted to provide first class carriages, high speed wi-fi, additional luggage racks and on-board entertainment.
At the same time, the customer concierge team will grow from 20 to 80, to provide on-board service and improve the passenger experience.
HEx’s’ sustainability and corporate responsibility strategies go hand in hand as it delivers a public transport service with fully electric trains operated by a diverse workforce. The company also focuses on supporting people in its local community through work with a partnership school and through volunteering as part of the Paddington Partnership.
This policy supports the Heathrow 2.0 strategy for sustainable growth and the wider ambitions of providing a great place to work, a great place to live in and supporting a thriving, sustainable economy. Ensuring at least 50 per cent of airport passengers travel by public transport by 2030 is a priority for Heathrow. That’s partly because per passenger, HEx emits less carbon than a washing machine (washed at 40 degrees and tumble dried in a vented drier) and offers a 54 per cent reduction compared to travelling by diesel taxi.
Waste, pollution and water use is kept to an absolute minimum with recycled water used to wash the trains. On-board halogen train lights have been replaced by energy-efficient LEDs and the trains recover energy when braking.
Last month, a campaign was launched to mark 20 years of HEx’s sustainable service. It featured 36m of posters, created using some of the rubbish left on the trains, displayed along the walkway from the satellite Terminal at Heathrow Airport.
The posters highlighted the core elements of HEx’s sustainability efforts. Zero landfill waste from the depot, e-tickets and reduced carbon emissions all featured.
So too did volunteering to give 500 hours to the community each year – including gardening at Penfold Hub, helping at North Paddington food bank and cooking lunch for homeless people – and helping young people prepare for work through partnership with Harris Academy, St John’s Wood, to deliver guru lectures, interview practice and mock recruitment events.
The posters also revealed that one third of HEx’s drivers are female, that the company is committed to inspiring a diverse workforce, and that customers gave the service a 95 per cent overall satisfaction rating in the spring 2018 National Rail Passenger Survey.
HEx’s head of commercial Chris Crauford said: “This is probably our most ambitious attempt to engage passengers in our sustainability credentials and bring our brand to life in a way that goes beyond the speed, reliability and customer service we’re known for. We’re proud of our position as a sustainable transport option with our diverse workforce, activities in the community and fully electric trains.”
Chris is one of three recent appointments to HEx’s senior management team. Previously a senior commercial manager at Heathrow Airport, he now heads up the teams responsible for the digital platforms, marketing and communications functions, the sales team and the B2B sales and distribution team, which manages relationships with commercial partners.
Les Freer, previously Heathrow’s head of ground handling, strategy and licensing, is the new business lead, responsible for the safe, reliable delivery of HEx services and delivering on ambitious passenger and revenue targets. This includes working with partners such as Network Rail, GWR and Heathrow to represent HEx within the industry. Les is experienced in the transport sector having worked in highways as the head of logistics for Spicers, in the maritime industry as operations director for Allport and, of course, in aviation for Heathrow.
Sophie Chapman works with these same partners to ensure the continuing delivery of the safe, punctual, fast and efficient service. She brings with her a wealth of experience at Eurostar, where she worked with partners in UK, France and Belgium and oversaw the on-board aspects of the rollout of Eurostar’s new fleet in 2015.
She said: “This is a really exciting role and I’m especially proud to be working in operations where women generally aren’t well represented yet.
“Our industry is actually all about people, and that’s what I love, working with a team of highly motivated professionals to keep people, and therefore the country, moving.”
These new appointments will also help HEx to meet the ambitious customer service, commercial and sustainability targets it has set itself for the next ten years.