The meeting began at c8.40pm
The company ethos is to be the most successful airport link in the world
Plans for a link were made in 1956, though the Act of Parliament was passed in 1991. Construction followed from 1996, though the tunnels at Heathrow collapsed, so trains started running in 1998 to a temporary station as "Fast Track", with a bus link to the airport. A full service began in June 1998 following full testing of the Siemens-built trains. Now airport check-in facilities are available at Paddington station.
The potential market is 1800 cars travelling from London, with the target being Business users, who are time-poor but money-rich. The service is being relied on, so any delays are likely to cause complaints.
Services are operated by 4 carriage 100mph class 332 EMUs, fitted with ATP. Maintenance is carried out by Siemens at a purpose built depot near Old Oak Common, near Eurostar's North Pole depot.
The staff are mainly "Customer Services"- recruited from the airlines and hotels. Drivers were trained to Railtrack and ASLEF standards, though HEx workers are not members of ASLEF. Shifts are rotated as 1 in 6 drivers shifts are non train driving, as a fifteen minute journey can become repetitive. The distinction of the company from other TOCs is 50% of those passed to drive the trains are women. In the first year, 4.3m customers were carried, and the service won several awards.
The operations moved into profit three months ago, with new services currently being planned. The tunnels have capacity for 16 trains per hour, which is not being utilised, so a service via Hayes, Ealing Broadway and West Hampstead to St. Pancras is planned. Further into the future, the "Airtrack" system is planned to link via Terminal five to south London and the Waterloo-Reading Southern Electric line.
Imminent plans are for two Class 332 units to shuttle to Hayes, connecting with the local Thames Trains services in October, also along the Greenford Loop. Further plans are for "Project United" linking Heathrow with Manchester. One final service, a link between Heathrow and Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris by Eurostar was pressured against by BA. However, a Eurostar set did make it onto the branch's gauging test.
The recent Ladbroke Grove collision have caused problems for the service, even though ATP is used throughout. A 40mph speed restriction is currently in force out of Paddington, which means the "Fifteen Minute Connection" is more like sixteen minutes. The last few months have been the worst in terms of delays, though plans are being made to solve the problems of the layout at Paddington, possibly meaning ATP on all trains using the trackwork.
The meeting closed at 9.40pm