Published: 14th February 2014
A pair of train companies, nominally in competition with each other, has combined with Singapore Airlines making it possible for customers to travel from Bristol to Brisbane with just one booking.
This new marketing initiative should make it easier for long distance passengers to use public transport to get to and from Heathrow by rail. First Great Western (FGW) and Heathrow Express (HEX) are offering passengers through ticketing from Bath, Bristol Temple Meads and Parkway, Plymouth, Exeter, Swansea, Cardiff, Oxford, Penzance, Par and St. Austell where you will be able to arrange international flights and rail fares in one go.
A FGW High Speed Train has received a special livery to mark the project and one was even taken to Heathrow on a lorry!
The rail-fly partnership is intended to save passengers money as well as time with various offers linked to the flying portion of the journey for example an economy Saver Express fare from Bristol to Brisbane will save you £140 or 13% and those travelling Business Express will save nearly £190 or 5% subject to conditions.
Passengers will be able to travelling without any restrictions in conjunction with their flight and this is the first “through ticketing” of its kind in the UK. FGW passengers will be able to change onto a HEX service at Paddington to connect with their Singapore Airlines flight to Singapore and beyond and works vice-versa when they return to the UK.
Keith Greenfield, managing director of Heathrow Express, said: “Now people will be able to book a journey between Bath and Singapore with just one transaction rather than three. This is the smarter way to travel, and we hope other airlines follow suit.
“The main beneficiary of this rail-fly deal will be customers - not just Heathrow Express customers but also Singapore Airlines and First Great Western customers.”
FGW managing director Mark Hopwood said: “This partnership provides that perfect travel solution, where you will be looked after by FGW’s helpful and friendly staff before boarding your Singapore Airlines flight, or as you return home. The first ticket of its kind in the UK, we look forward to working with other providers in the future, and continue to grow the number of customers travelling to Heathrow by train."
Mark Hopwood, First Great Western Managing Director, said:
“Whether you are a businessman travelling to a meeting or a family going on holiday, many people would like to take advantage of booking a single ticket from their nearest station to a host of destinations across the world.
Wilson Yong, UK and Ireland general manager for Singapore Airlines, said: “Singapore Airlines is excited to initiate the first ever rail and fly partnership in the UK. In conjunction with First Great Western and Heathrow Express, we are simplifying long-haul travel by enabling customers to exclusively and conveniently book their trains and flights in one transaction.
“Together we are proud to launch another industry first, helping to bring the Southwest to Asia and the rest of the world - and the world to Southwest England in return. The UK is a market of great importance to us, as is increasing connectivity with the nation’s hub airport, London Heathrow.”
Apart from the obvious reasons to increase business, all companies are looking forward to 2018 when Crossrail services start to operate, linking Heathrow from many destinations with a fast and frequent service.
This will remove the defacto monopoly that HEX has on non-stop services between Paddington and Heathrow and a similar position with the FGW Heathrow Connect branded services.
When Crossrail starts, direct trains will take just over 30 minutes from The City and will abstract passengers from using Paddington. Who will suffer most? Road transport will reduce and tube traffic will be eased so it’s a good news rail story.
HEX has come out on top of the UK passenger feedback stakes for the second half of 2013 the Passenger Focus run National Passenger Survey (NPS). This is the official Industry survey and the results showed that 96% of Heathrow Express passengers (17,000 a day on average) were pleased with their journey. The London and South East average for the period was 82% while the national average was 83%.
Keith Greenfield, managing director of Heathrow Express, said: “While we are thrilled to be the top of the rankings for the latter half of last year, we are determined to improve our service still further for our customers.
“With this in mind we recently revamped our mobile app to make it easier for our customers to purchase tickets. And we are currently upgrading our old on-train WiFi system. By the spring of this year we hope to be offering our customers one of the best on-train WiFi systems in the world.”
FGW has announced a timescale to introduce free WiFi on its High Speed Train fleet and Night Riviera Sleeper services. This follows the announcement last October that they had promised to fit WiFi as part of their 23 month franchise extension. The supplier will be Nomad Digital who will fit all 53 of its High Speed Trains and its Night Riviera trains fitted with WiFi.
The fitment will commence in May and completion intended to be made by the end of 2014 but the sleeper fitted by June.
First Great Western Managing Director Mark Hopwood said: “We have trialled WiFi on board our fleet of Class 180 trains, serving the north Cotswolds, and it has been very well received by customers. I am delighted that we are able to extend this free service, and within the next year all high speed and Sleeper fleet customers will be able to read their emails, browse the web, or simply catch up with friends while on the move.”