Bus and coach operations at a major airport

Document Type

Conference Paper

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - airport, mode - bus


Heathrow is the world's busiest international airport currently handling around 55 million passengers per annum, 36 million of whom start or finish their air journeys at the airport. ( The remainder transfer from one aircraft to another). The key to the movement of these passengers and of the 53000 staff that work at the airport lies in having an effective, responsive and balanced transport strategy. With the focus today very much on encouraging greater use of public transport and less reliance on the private car, BAA Heathrow (HAL) has been working closely with transport operators and transport authorities to develop a quality road and rail based public transport network designed to appeal to all users of the airport. This paper is concerned with the bus and coach aspects and examines the background to the Heathrow initiatives, the achievements to date and future opportunities. It has been prepared in consultation with Speedlink Airport Services, one of the principal bus and coach operators at the airport and a subsidiary of the National Express Group, and demonstrates the partnership approach that HAL is keen to foster. The contribution of bus and coach should not be underestimated. For whilst the various rail initiatives (the subject of a separate paper by London Underground Ltd) promise to deliver a major upswing in public transport modal share, the timescales involved are essentially medium to long term and tend to be relatively expensive. Bus and coach however, offers a number of potential low cost "quick wins". Around 34% of Heathrow's originating/terminating passengers currently use public transport to travel to and from the airport, one of the highest percentages in the world and in absolute terms over 12 million - far more than any other airport. 13% come by bus and coach. Despite this already impressive track record, HAL's long term vision is to get 50% of its passengers on to public transport, although this very challenging target will require a general shift in attitudes and travel habits that are only likely to come about as a result of external forces eg. government intervention in the form of fiscal measures, road pricing, etc. By contrast, 12% of airport employees use public transport to get to work, split roughly 50/50 between bus and Underground. Although this is comparable with many outer London developments, HAL is working on a package of measures aimed at reducing car dependency among employees, and development of the local bus network at times and frequencies to suit is key to this strategy.


Permission to publish abstract given by AET.