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Heathrow Express braces for crossrail to end airport monopoly

[LONDON] Heathrow Express, which runs the only surface rail link to Europe's busiest airport, pledged to carry on growing even as it braces for the end of its 19-year monopoly on the route when Crossrail Ltd commences operations next year.

The company will seek to publicize its shorter journey time from London's Paddington station and emphasize that travelers through Heathrow won't have to share its trains with commuters, as they will on Crossrail, Managing Director Fraser Brown said in an interview.

The rollout of Crossrail services from the airport to central London and the City financial district will present Heathrow Express with the biggest challenge in its history. Its own trains terminate at Paddington in the west of the UK capital, so travelers need to switch to the subway or catch a cab to continue their journey, something that won't be necessary on Crossrail.

"Crossrail is a great thing and it will increase connectivity and people's awareness of the train option," Mr Brown said. "But it cannot match our '15 minutes, every 15 minutes' service and neither will it have the big seats and large luggage spaces that our airline passengers value." While Heathrow Express's guaranteed 15-minute journey time to Paddington gives it an eight-minute advantage over Crossrail trains, which will make five stops en route, the new £15-billion (S$26.8 billion) network should be quicker for longer trips. Trains from Heathrow Central will take 28 minutes to reach Tottenham Court Road in London's West End and arrive at Liverpool Street in the City in 34 minutes and Canary Wharf in 40 minutes.

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Heathrow Express plans to increase its marketing efforts to boost awareness of its services, Mr Brown said. That will include improved visibility and advertising at the airport stressing that its trains are tailor-made for travelers and won't become clogged with commuters since they travel to Paddington non-stop.