Heathrow to Bath or Oxford

When we fly into England for a trip to the Cotswolds, we frequently start out with a few days in Bath. Getting from the London airports to Bath is not that easy. We usually have a car service take us, but that is expensive. It was worth it to us because of the time it saved and the convenience. But today I found another option.

RailAir – Buses run by First Great Western trains take you from Heathrow directly to Reading train station where you can get express trains to Bath (station name Bath Spa) or Oxford (and other places).

RailAir pickup is at the Central Bus Station at Heathrow, not at the terminals. The Central Bus Station is in the center of the airport surrounded by terminals 1, 2 and 3, with walking links from these terminals. From terminal 4 take the free Heathrow Express. (No transportation from terminal 5 yet.)

Use the The Trainline to purchase a combined RailAir/Train ticket (select “Heathrow Terminals 1, 2, 3 Bus” as your departure station).  A combined ticket one way from Heathrow to Bath Spa is £20 (about $40) advance purchase or £47 (about $94) single saver ( non-peak hours). If buying ahead of time for the cheaper advance price, be sure to leave lots of time after your flight arrives to get through customs and make your way through the airport.

Travel time is about 2 hours. For example, a bus leaves the Heathrow Bus Station at 12:05pm, gets to Reading at 12:48pm, then the train leaves Reading at 12:57pm and arrives in Bath Spa at 2:00pm. Bus and train are operated by First Great Western.

Let’s compare the train to Bath with a car service. Clive at Drive-U charges £140 (about $280) for car service from Heathrow to Bath. Two people taking the First bus/train pay £94 (about $188) for same-day tickets; a savings of $92. You may still need a taxi from the Bath train station to your hotel or vacation rental. If you purchase advance tickets, which commit you to a specific bus and train, you save even more – £40 for two people (about $80), saving about $200.

Prior Park, Bath
Prior Park, Bath

I am always shocked at the train prices in England. I can understand the expense of the car service. The driver drives two hours from Bath to get your, then drives two hours back, and probably uses a tank of gas. But £47 for a non-peak same day purchase travel ticket, for a two hour train ride, seems expensive.

With these high prices, the option of picking up your rental car at the airport and doing a short drive to your first destination makes economic sense, but don’t plan a big driving day. You are getting used to driving on the “other” side and you did not get a good night’s sleep.

I updated my Trip Planning – London Airports page to list RailAir for Heathrow.

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Pauline Kenny

Pauline Kenny and Steve Cohen are US expats living in Dorset. We moved to the UK in 2010. Read about our move. If you would like to talk about travel, please join us on the Slow Europe Travel Forums.