Friday, July 26, 2013

Service Change: London, Part 1: Services Around Heathrow Airport

There are essentially three ways you can get from Heathrow Airport to London (without taking a cab): the public bus (which I don't even think I'd want to do); the Piccadilly Line; and the Heathrow Express. The Heathrow Express is marketed as "the fastest way between central London and Heathrow." The ride only takes 15 minutes, however, it costs 20 pounds (around 30 US dollars) just to go one way! There is also a Heathrow Connect, which runs on the same tracks but makes stops along the way. The Heathrow Connect/Express is the easiest way to get around the airport (although there really is no easy way). The problem with using it to get around the airport is that if you want to get from Terminal 4 to Terminal 5, for example, you have to take two trains with a transfer at Terminals 1 and 3.



The stations at the airport are pretty nice.
A countdown clock at the airport.
Annoyingly, before you can board a train, they have to perform a "short security check" for what seems like no apparent reason. Every time, however, there was a person who completely ignored the announcements and tried to barge right into the train, anyway. Luckily, the check only takes a couple minutes.

Two views of trains coming into stations.
The trains are very nice on the inside. The seats are big and fluffy, and they face forward (something I like, as you know). There are also automatic announcements (not that they're really necessary on such a short ride), as well as "Heathrow Express TV," which is mostly just a bunch of ads.

Destination board.
These seats look so comfy!

Heathrow Express TV.

These seats don't look as comfy...
That's pretty much all I rode of Heathrow Express. The way I got into London was the Piccadilly Line, part of the London Underground. The Piccadilly Line has a very grand entrance in Terminal 5, but it's kind of far and inconvenient if you're just travelling around the airport.

The classic logo at the entrance.

A Piccadilly line train.
A countdown clock on the line.
My first thought upon entering the train was, "Wow, this is tiny." And indeed, it was. On the London Underground Tube lines, you're practically knee to knee with the people across from you. There are even signs that say, "Please keep feet off seats." The trains are so tiny due to tunnel diameter.

Very tight.

I think it's funny how you can put your feet on the seats.
The Piccadilly Line is in tunnel until Hounslow Central Station, where it rises up above the street. At Acton Town. the Piccadilly meets up with its other, longer branch to Uxbridge/Rayners Lane, as well as the District Line. Also at Acton Town is the London Transport Museum Depot. It's only open twice a month, and my mother and I managed to book the last tickets. It was very interesting, with lots of old trains, buses, and signage, but unfortunately they do not allow photos for public use.

Acton Town Station.
The Depot Building,

The depot entrance.

A sign on the outside.
London has fare zones in its system, meaning the way ticketing works is a bit different. Many people use Oyster Cards, which are the equivalent of our CharlieCards. You have to keep your ticket with you on the train, because you have to insert it into the machine again to get out.

The fare gates.
A wider fare gate.
A ticket machine.
Our hotel was in Russell Square, which is a station so deep that you have to use elevators to get down to it. It was very interesting but also claustrophobic. There's a mad rush of people who try to cram into it, causing the automatic elevator announcer to continuously say, "Please do not obstruct the doors."

Covent Garden can get VERY crowded on weekends.

Leicester Square Station.

Piccadilly Circus Station.
Russell Square at platform level.

An alternative to the elevator, I guess?


The exterior of Russell Square.
Finally, a few videos of the announcements made on the Piccadilly Line: 

video

video

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