Will Wales’ Heathrow link be run by the world’s most expensive rail operator?Posted: February 16, 2014
Concerns raised by a Welsh MP over Heathrow Express’ bid to run trains on the planned link to the airport from the West
Fears have been raised that Wales’ new link to Heathrow could be run by the world’s most expensive railway operator.
An MP has raised concerns that Heathrow Express’ bid to run the planned direct link from Reading to the west London airport could put prices out of the reach of Welsh passengers.
The new route will cut 45 minutes off the rail trip from South Wales to Britain’s biggest airport.
But some commentators have claimed Heathrow Express, which is lobbying to run trains on the route, has the world’s highest train fares in relation to its 15-minute journey time.
The cheapest one-way fare, at £21, works out at £1.40 per minute.
By comparison, the cheapest one-way ticket on the glamorous Orient Express from Paris to Venice costs about £1.39 per minute.
That’s based on two people sharing a private cabin, but the price includes a bed for the night, a four-course dinner in the restaurant car, breakfast brought to your cabin and a three-course lunch.
Network Rail aims to open the western rail link from Reading and Slough to Heathrow in 2021.
No decision has been made on who will run the trains. The company operating on the main line from South Wales to London – currently First Great Western – would be one option.
Ogmore MP Huw Irranca-Davies said it was excellent that lobbying for the link by MPs along the route from South Wales was paying off.
“However, now the focus has to change to make sure that whoever runs that section of line has the best interests of passengers at heart,” he said.
“This service has to be available to people in South Wales of all financial means, and not simply those who can afford the most expensive train tickets.
“I will be personally raising this with the transport minister to make sure that people from South Wales aren’t ripped off.”
He said the new rail link should encourage more overseas visitors – including rugby fans – to travel to South Wales, but added: “We’ve got to make sure that they don’t feel they’re paying a premium for what should be a straightforward journey.”
But Iestyn Davies, of the Federation of Small Businesses in Wales, said Heathrow Express fares were unlikely to deter visitors or cause problems for residents and businesses in South Wales.
“It’s clearly a competitive market, and the price would respond to what the market would allow,” he said.
A Heathrow Express spokesman said: “If we win the right to run our trains on the new western spur from 2021, our tickets will be priced to encourage people to use our service – as competitively as possible compared with alternative modes of transport.
“Savings from through-ticketing partnerships with other travel companies will also be fed in to our prices.”
Heathrow Express recently topped the official survey of rail passengers, with 96% saying they were satisfied with the service. The price of a return ticket between Paddington and Heathrow has remained at £34 since 2012.
SSourced from walesonline