Published 22nd July 2013
The private train company, Heathrow Express (HEX) has just celebrated its 15th anniversary by announcing that its fleet of 14 Siemens built Class 332 trains, have all been upgraded following the completion of a £16million 20 month refurbishment programme.
The company was set up in 1998 after rail privatisation and operates between Paddington and Heathrow Airport carrying 16,000 passengers a day on their non-stop express trains. These can reach 100mph within three minutes of a standing start and provide a premium service to Heathrow Airport, which has been in the news recently by announcing that they want to build another runway.
HEX has undergone a rebranding exercise and the upgraded fleet of trains which now reflect this and their upgrade project. The trains were refurbished at Railcare’s Wolverton Works which celebrates its 175th anniversary in September.
The fleet was stripped down back to the bare metal of the carriages and the interiors were also completely refitted in a partnership with Siemens, the train builders. The interior is describes as a luxury airline style and the exterior of the trains now sport a Union Jack livery which cannot be missed! The final design and new brand was agreed on after a three year research project involving customers and suppliers which suggested passengers required ever higher standards.
The refurbishment has worked according to feedback received by HEX. Passengers have said variously that they would be happy to spend the night on the train or to have the 15 minute journey extended and that the ‘wow’ factor had been achieved.
There are two classes of travel, first and express class. First class has a roomy what is known as 1 by 1 seating so every seat is by a window, the only UK train in regular service to have such seating. This offers privacy, comfort and more space. (Statesman Rail also offer this facility on their charter train Pullman services and are always the first to be sold.)
The train upgrading project has been matched on the service delivery side HEX revising their website, staff uniforms, airport terminals and tickets.
The latest National Passenger Survey saw HEX top of the tables for pretty much everything, performance, punctuality, satisfaction and they only lost out on the very top spot to a train company that operates just a handful of services a day.
HEX operates 150 trains a day at up to 100mph between Paddington and Heathrow covering around 2450 miles, the same distance as between Philadelphia and Los Angeles. Over the last
In 15 years, HEX trains have travelled 23,689151 miles or equivalent to going round the world 951 times carrying more than 60 million passengers - or the population of the UK.
HEX offers 20 million seats a year-enough to fill Wembley stadium 22 times over and the fleet has 2500 windows to be kept clean. These are cleaned by some of the 481 HEX staff of which 33 have been there for 15 years.
One HEX train can carry the same amount of passengers as 87 black London cabs who can enjoy a continuous mobile phone signal, even in the tunnel and also have uninterrupted wi-fi on their journey. The refurbished trains have ‘mood lighting’ that changes during the journey.
• First Great Western operate a Heathrow Connect service calling at intermediate stations between Paddington and Heathrow meaning that trains serve Heathrow for nearly 20 hours a day.
Keith Greenfield, Managing Director of HEX said “I’m delighted that we’ve been able to match our reputation for speed and reliability with that of being widely regarded as having one of the best fleets of rolling stock anywhere in the world. We’ve been able to celebrate our 15th anniversary year confident that our passengers are experiencing the ultimate in comfort”.
Mark Cooper, Managing Director of Railcare Wolverton said that “We are delighted that we’ve been able to play such a significant part in helping one of London’s iconic rail services remain at the cutting edge and that the new levels of comfort will make a huge difference to passengers”.
Steve White, Service Director of Siemens said ”This has been a really exciting project to work on – transforming a 15 year old fleet to lead the way in innovative design and passenger comfort. It makes the switch from air to rail seamless with luxury as standard throughout the train. Many passengers mistake Standard Class for First Class, it is that good”.
Many members of HEX staff have been involved in raising funds to allow young Harry Boyce to undergo an operation to help reduce the effects of Diplegia, a form of cerebral palsy which is a muscle affecting condition.
His parents are both HEX drivers and they heard about an operation that is carried out in a hospital in St. Louis, Missouri. Staff held various fund-raising activities to enable Harry to travel for his operation.
Managing Director Keith Greenfield swam two kilometres in open water at the Henley Regatta to help raise funds. And Harry? He has had his operation and the signs are good.
Posted on Monday 22nd July 2013 | 4:18 PM