UK: The Heathrow Express premium airport service between London Paddington and Heathrow Airport is to continue running until at least 2028 under a new agreement announced on March 28.

The non-franchised service is currently operated in-house by Heathrow Airport Ltd, which will continue to own the service and be responsible for managing the stations at the airport.

Under the agreement approved by the Department for Transport, FirstGroup’s Great Western Railway, which holds the Great Western franchise, is to operate the service under a management contract running from August 2018 until 2028; it is expected that the arrangement would transfer to any future holder of the Great Western franchise.

GWR will operate Heathrow Express services using its Bombardier Transportation Class 387 Electrostar EMUs. A dedicated pool of 12 of the EMUs will be modified by December 2019 to provide first class accommodation, high speed wi-fi, additional luggage racks and on-board entertainment.

The agreement means there is no need to build a new depot to replace the current facility at Old Oak Common which Heathrow Express must vacate by the end of 2019 as part of the High Speed 2 project.

New ticket readers will also be provided at Heathrow and Paddington to enable users of Heathrow Express and TfL’s future Elizabeth Line service to the airport to use pay-as-you-go Oyster or contactless ticketing.

FirstGroup Chief Executive Tim O’Toole said the agreement ‘demonstrates the transport industry working in partnership for the benefit of passengers, allowing fast and convenient connections to continue on this crucial airport link.’

Heathrow Chief Executive John Holland-Kaye said the agreement would secure ‘convenient and reliable public transport journeys to Heathrow in this decade and beyond’.