Business travellers’ guide to getting into Central London from the airport (PART 2)
25th April 2014
With five airports positioned in and around the UK capital, London provides business travellers with a wide choice of arrival and departure points. In March, Flightline Travel published part one of a three part extended feature exploring the options business travellers have when deciding how to get into Central London, with the focus on London’s busiest airport, Heathrow. Now, in part two, Flightline Travel examines the options available to business travellers getting into Central London from Gatwick airport.
After Heathrow, London Gatwick is the next busiest airport (by passenger numbers) which feeds London. Located to the south of the capital, Gatwick is just less than thirty miles from Central London. Like its larger rival, Gatwick provides business travellers with a comprehensive selection of travel options into the capital. The fastest mode of transport is by rail, with a variety of options available to business travellers. All services operate from the train station based at the South Terminal of the airport.
The quickest train service is the Gatwick Express which runs non-stop between Gatwick Airport and one of the capital’s main rail terminals, London Victoria station. Business travellers will be attracted to this non-stop option and its timetable, which features departures every 15 minutes and a journey time of only 30 minutes. The service runs from Gatwick between 04:35 until 01:35 seven days a week. As the premium train travel option servicing this airport, Gatwick Express trains provide superior ride comfort compared with other operators, with a fleet of 442 model trains known in the rail industry for their very smooth ride. The interiors are smart, modern and comfortable. Light refreshments are available from a trolley service. At the time of writing we are not aware of Wi-Fi availability.
Ticket prices for the Gatwick Express fall into two tiers – Standard and First Class – with the added consideration of discounted tariffs if business travellers (or their corporate travel agents) make their purchase online. If purchased conventionally at the station ticket office, the ‘Standard Anytime’ single journey ticket costs £19.90 (€24.00 / $33.50), but business travellers will get better value if they purchase a return ticket, priced at £34.90 (€42.00 / $58.50). The ‘First Class Anytime’ single journey ticket costs £29.00 (€38.00 / $48.50), with a return ticket priced at £56.00 (€68.00 / $94.00). An online advance purchase for either pricing tier offers business travellers a 10% saving. As you might expect, First Class offers business travellers a more comfortable experience, with superior seating and legroom, and complimentary light refreshments.
If business travellers or their corporate travel agents purchase First Class Anytime Return tickets online, there is the added value of receiving free access to a No.1 Traveller airport lounge. There are No.1 Traveller lounges located in both the South and North Terminals, each stylishly designed and well equipped to offer business travellers a calm refuge away from the usual hustle and bustle of the airport. Business travellers can enjoy complimentary Wi-Fi, a wide selection of local newspapers and magazines, or simply pass the time with a selection of games. There’s also a complimentary light meal from the bistro-style menu, and complimentary drinks from the bar. The North Terminal lounge provides business travellers with a spa (offering treatments from £15.00), a business centre, and a mini-cinema. The South Terminal lounge provides business travellers with unrivalled panoramic views of the Gatwick runway.
Of course not all business travellers will want – or be able – to spend so much on this travel option. Fortunately London Gatwick Airport is supported by alternative rail travel services. Southern Trains also operate a service to London Victoria station, though this is punctuated with multiple stops along the route. This though can be an advantage if your ultimate London destination is in the south of the city, with their service stopping at the major transfer hubs of East Croydon and Clapham Junction, both of which offer additional branch lines that provide excellent access to the rest of the capital. Southern Trains run four times an hour between Gatwick and London Victoria, with a travel time of between thirty and sixty minutes, depending on the time of day.
As with all conventional rail services, ticket prices are subject to the business traveller’s time of travel, with different tariffs applying to peak and non-peak periods. There’s also the price difference between purchasing at the station or online to consider, reduced price quotas, and online seasonal discounts and promotions. With so many variables, and since there is a high probability that many business travellers will be required to travel in peak hours, this feature will focus on peak time fares purchased on the day of travel only. As such, a Standard Class single journey ticket between Gatwick and London Victoria can be purchased for as little as £15.00 (€18.00 / $25.00), while a return ticket can be purchased for as little as £25.00 (€30.00 / $42.00). First Class tickets prices for the equivalent journey start from £22.50 (€27.50 / $38.00) for a single and £45.00 (€55.00 / $76.00) for a return.
While the price of the ticket will always be a consideration for most business travellers, it is equally important to remember that the dedicated Gatwick Express service offers greater comfort and ease of use than its conventional rivals. For instance, luggage space with the Gatwick Express service is a given, whereas business travellers may struggle in this area on the conventional rail service, particularly at peak travel times.
The First Capital Connect train service also runs from Gatwick Airport, and like its rival Southern Trains has a tariff system equally as diverse. You may however wish to consider this service since it offers alternative Central London destinations to its rival, notably stopping at London Bridge (a major London Underground transfer hub, and stop of choice for business travellers who need to access the ‘City’ financial district), St Pancras International (the base for Eurostar, and which in conjunction with Kings Cross station is a major rail terminus) and Luton Airport (one of the smaller airports that serves London).
By its very nature train travel is conducted between fixed points, and to a fixed timetable. Business travellers looking for a more flexible option should consider travelling by road. Again, as previously mentioned in part one of this feature, it should be noted that road travel into London can be very congested and prone to accidents and delays. Gatwick airport is connected to London initially by the M23 motorway, but soon after traversing the M25 orbital motorway (which surrounds London) changes into the smaller A23, making travel slower. There are however good, regular coach and bus services along this route.
Dominant UK coach carrier National Express runs a direct service to London Victoria coach terminus (a five minute walk from the train and London Underground stations) typically operating once an hour, but often up to up to every 30 minutes. The journey duration is subject to the time of day and road congestion, with the fastest service taking 65 minutes, and the average journey time being 85 minutes. This coach service operates from the lower level forecourt of both the South and North terminals, and the bus/coach bays directly outside the terminal doors are easy to find. Although tickets can be purchased at the airport, business travellers are advised to make advance purchases online. This will guarantee a seat on the coach. Of course consideration should be given to the possibility of flight delays, which can have a knock-on effect with subsequent travel arrangements. Single journey ticket prices start from £7.50 (€9.00 / $12.50), returns from £15.00 (€18.00 / $25.00).
While National Express represents good value, even better can be found with easyBus, the low-cost frequent airport transfer service operated by the budget airline easyJet, which runs non-stop between Gatwick and London with prices starting from just £2.00 (€2.50 / $3.50) each way. With buses departing every 15 to 20 minutes during peak times, and running throughout the day and night from both the North and South terminals, business travellers are taken to Earls Court/West Brompton in west side of Central London. A typical journey takes approximately 65 minutes, but this can be subject to traffic delays. EasyBus operates seven days a week (except for Christmas Day). Despite being run by easyJet, anyone is allowed to use the service. While representing extraordinarily good value, business travellers should remember that a bus journey is not as comfortable as that of coach travel.
If your travel budget allows for more scope and you want to travel by road, the freedom of private hire transport is readily available at Gatwick, and a licensed black cab or minicab taxi may suit your needs. Travelling in a licensed black cab into Central London will take approximately 60 minutes (subject to traffic delays) and will typically cost £100.00 (€121.50/ $168.00). This price will increase if waiting time in traffic delays occurs. You can get a black cab at any time throughout the day or night without any problem, and good sign posting at Gatwick ensures they are very easy to find. Up to five business travellers can be accommodated, though space will be tight, and if you all have large luggage this will cause further problems.
An alternative to black cabs are licensed taxi services. This option offers business travellers more flexibility since an array of vehicle types are available, ranging from 3/4 seater saloon and 5/6 passenger people carrier cars, 16 seater minibuses, and even coach taxis. There’s also the added advantage of booking your vehicle of choice in advance and for a fixed price. Tariffs and quality of service can vary, but typically a fixed price single journey booked in advance into Central London will cost £64.00 (€78.00/ $108.00) for a three passenger saloon car; £96.00 (€117.00/ $161.00) for an executive car; £79.00 (€96.00/ $133.00) for a five passenger MPV; £99.00 (€120.00/ $167.00) for an 8 seater minibus; £148.50 (€180.00/ $250.00) for an executive 8 seater minibus; and £239.00 (€290.00/ $400.00) for a 16 seater minibus. If return travel is booked in advance savings can be made on all tariffs. Though private hire road services are much more expensive than their public transport rivals, business travellers enjoy the freedom to travel exactly where and when they want to, and benefit from what can be a very relaxing way to get into Central London which – particularly after a long flight – offers them an opportunity to take it easy prior to their business activities.
For business travel procurers who need to arrange transportation for VIPs or senior executives, there are plenty of chauffeur driven services available to choose from servicing the route between Gatwick and Central London. This will need to be booked in advance, and the vehicle type and length of time you require it for will determine the rate you’ll pay. Chauffeur driven services are readily available to find online, or through your corporate travel agent. This goes the same for helicopter charter services which are available to transfer executive business travellers between Gatwick and Battersea Heliport in Central London (journey flight time is approximately 15 minutes). As leading independent business travel agents Flightline are experienced at providing executive business travellers with both of these modes of transport, and we’re available to take your enquiry.
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All prices correct at time of publication.
In the third and final part of this business travellers London city guide we’ll focus on getting into the capital from City, Stansted and Luton airports.
Flightline provides business travellers flying to London with all the available options
Business travellers, corporate travel managers and procurers should contact one of Flightline Travel’s knowledgeable and experienced business travel team today. Call us on 0844 332 0174 to learn more, or alternatively email us or complete our online contact form.