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While looking at the London rail and tube services map recently I noticed that the depiction of the Heathrow Express has changed on the latest version of that map has changed. The map still says that travelcards are invalid on Heathrow Express but no longer says that PAYG is invalid on Heathrow Express.

On the other hand, the FAQ on the Heathrow Express website still says that Oyster is not valid on Heathrow Express and their news page lists it as coming soon.

This raises two questions.

  1. What is the current situation? is the Heathrow Express website outdated or have the TFL mapping guys jumped the gun.
  2. The prices for Heathrow Express will still be much higher than for TFL rail. How will the system distinguish the two? is there a risk of people being incorrectly charged for a Heathrow Express journey?
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    The TfL Single Fare Finder says "Fares shown aren't for Heathrow Express". The TfL Journey planner says "Heathrow Express Ticket Information. HEATHROW EXPRESS: Please note that Oyster Cards, Freedom Passes and Travelcards are not valid on Heathrow Express services." – jcaron Dec 13 '18 at 12:41
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    Try contacting Heathrow Express on Twitter handle @HeathrowExpress - most UK transport companies will respond quickly to queries via Twitter (but if you get an answer, post it here) – Stuart F Dec 13 '18 at 12:43
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The TfL mapping guys have indeed jumped the gun. Though it's hard to prove a negative in this case, the Heathrow Express website is correct. The most official source you'll probably get, the Heathrow Express Conditions of Carriage, state unequivocally that Oyster is invalid.

However, Oyster is expected to be implemented imminently (I believe estimates were previously some time in December, and even if it's slipped I don't imagine it's that far away), so it's likely that TfL made the map with the consideration that it'll end up being true for most of the map's validity period. Maps are only put out twice a year, so this is not the first time this has been done (a change made a little early so the map will be correct for most of the period) and it probably won't be the last either.

As to the second, I can only speculate, but I'd strongly suspect the differing gatelines at London Paddington station have something to do with it - this is also how it's implemented with the Gatwick Express at Victoria. Heathrow Express trains tend to leave from platforms 6 and 7, whereas TfL Rail leave from the high-numbered platforms (or eventually the underground Crossrail platforms). This can change during disruption, but I don't know whether someone will take the revenue loss, whether the barriers will be reconfigured during disruption, or whether the onboard staff will have Oyster scanners which influence which fare is charged.

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    For corroboration: I was on a Heathrow Express train this past Sunday, and the on-train announcements started unequivocally (and repeatedly) that Oyster was not valid on it. – Henning Makholm Dec 13 '18 at 14:53
  • @HenningMakholm They even went as far as saying on a TfL rail train that Heathrow Express tickets are not valid on that train. No idea why they did so, but my guess is that they wanted to avoid complaints etc. – B.Liu Dec 13 '18 at 15:26
  • Better that the passenger hears an announcement and gets off before the train departs than gets into a heated argument with the guard after the train has departed. – Peter Green Dec 13 '18 at 16:44

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