UK Transport Wiki
Gatwick Express
File:Gatwick express logo.png

Franchise(s):Gatwick Express
28 April 1996 - 22 June 2008
Part of the South Central Franchise
22 June 2008 - 20 September 2009
Main Route(s):London Victoria - Gatwick Airport
Other Route(s):None
Fleet size:8 Class 460 Juniper
19 Class 442 Wessex Electric
Stations called at:7
Stations operated:0
Passenger km 2007/8:219.5 million
Route km operated:43.3
National Rail abbreviation:GX
Parent company:Govia (Go-Ahead Group/Keolis)

Template:Gatwick Express

Gatwick Express is the name given to the frequent rail shuttle service between Victoria station in London and Gatwick Airport in South East England, although the service has now been extended to encompass operations beyond Gatwick to Haywards Heath and Brighton, as well as providing units for a fast service from London Bridge to Eastbourne, which ironically is scheduled to pass non-stop through Gatwick Airport.

The service was initially introduced as a separate entity under the nationalised British Rail (which bought together several previous schemes to run dedicated services to the airport). The service was operated by the Southern Region of British Rail, albeit using branding and a livery similar to that used on the Intercity running north, east and west of London. The service was run on a "push-pull" basis using class 73 electro-diesels and dedicated stock comprising of converted BR Mk.2 coaches and EMU driving cars of class 489.

As a small, self-contained operation, the service became one of the first private train operating company franchises from 1994 as part of the privatisation process of British Rail. The new company ordered new units of class 460. Despite this, the franchise was due to be scrapped to free up capacity on the busy Brighton main line, especially during peak periods.

However, following objections by several interested parties, including the owners of Gatwick Airport itself, in June 2008 the franchise was absorbed into the larger private operator, Southern. Further new stock was bought in using redundant "Wessex Electric" units recently taken off-lease by South West Trains, which also enabled Southern to increase the service to incorporate the services south of Gatwick and the use of units on their services to Eastbourne. It was recently stated that the class 460s would be removed from the franchise by Dec 2010 and used elsewhere to increase capacity.


The main service runs the 27 mile distance from London Victoria to Gatwick every 15 minutes. The average non-stop journey time is 30 minutes. The firm operates eight Class 460 trains on dedicated services to the airport. Gatwick Express, unlike Heathrow Express, is part of the National Rail network.

An Express Class (standard class) single ticket costs £16.90 as of March 2009. This price is higher than those of the Southern and First Capital Connect stopping services, which are £10.90 and £8.90 respectively and are just as frequent.[1] This is supposed to reflect the non-stop service that the Gatwick Express offers, despite Southern (local) services taking only 1 to 8 minutes longer from Victoria to Gatwick. Passengers cannot travel on Gatwick Express using the Network Railcard discount.

Historical fares:

  • January 2007 - £14.90
  • July 2007 - £15.90
  • January 2008 - £16.90
  • July 2008 - £17.90
  • March 2009 - £16.90


The origins of the Gatwick Express service come from the initial opening of Gatwick Airport station in June 1958. Initially the service was provided entirely by London to Brighton stopping services, but more trains began to call with the introduction of the summer timetable in June 1958. One of the key elements of this was the extension of Three Bridges to Bognor Regis stopping services to start and terminate at London Victoria. These trains would run through a reversible platform at Gatwick station where a portion would detach and wait in the platform for passengers until the next up train from Bognor Regis was attached and the train would depart for Victoria. For this service, British Railways utilised a small batch of seven 2HAL units in order to work with the trains used on the Bognor services, these being used owing to their larger luggage space.

This situation lasted until the early 1970s, when the increase in use of the airport and luggage was rendering the old system obsolete. British Rail therefore decided to adapt a number of 4VEP units with increased luggage capacity (at the expense of fewer second class seats) and were redesignated as 4VEG. The service, however, remained much the same, with the units attaching and detaching from Bognor-bound services running via. Redhill. This led to somewhat extended journey times which meant the service lacked any real purpose, as the faster services began calling at Gatwick Airport from the early 1970s, and made the option of travelling to Gatwick from London on the service lack appeal to those who knew better.

In 1975, the British Airports Authority airport director, John Mulkern, the chairman of British Caledonian Airways, Adam Thomson, and the regional manager of British Rail's Southern Region, Bob Reid (latterly Sir Bob Reid), formed the Gatwick Liaison Group to discuss matters of mutual interest. As a subsidiary of this, the Gatwick Promotion Group, under the chairmanship of the airport public relations manager David Hurst, was formed to market the airport. One of the first successes of the group was to persuade the board of British Rail to redevelop Gatwick station by building a raft over the platforms and this was opened by the BR chairman, Sir Peter Parker, in 1980. It was a long term aim of the group to have a non-stop service between the airport and central London in order to counter the perceived distance from the capital both to the UK market and more especially to the potential passengers at the overseas destinations.

File:73201 at Clapham Junction.JPG

A class 73 running one of the original formation Gatwick Express services.

The first success was to brand the service from Bognor (which by this stage only stopped at East Croydon) as the "Rapid City Link". This name was used as Adam Thomson strongly maintained that US passengers equated ‘express’ with buses[citation needed].

However in 1984 the non-stop Gatwick Express service was started with ten units of reconditioned rolling stock with extra luggage space. A 30-minute journey time was advertised although it was recognised that some journeys would take nearer 35 minutes, especially in rush hours.

The first unit was taken on a promotional tour of the UK introducing it to travel agents in various centres, thought to be the first time a Southern Region train had travelled north. A visit to Scotland was ruled out because of union objections[citation needed]. However, as the class 73 locomotives were thought to be under-powered on diesel power to make time on the faster lines north of London, a class 33 locomotive was used instead.

The original services were formed with Class 73 locomotives and Mk2 coaching stock with specially modified GLV (Goods Luggage Vans) to carry passenger luggage and provide a driving facility at the other end of the train to the locomotive.


File:1995 gatwick express.gif

Original privatisation-era logo from 1994.

Gatwick Express was the first portion of British Rail's InterCity sector to be converted into a separate train operating unit, ready for franchising as a private business[2]. The franchise was awarded to National Express Group, with private operations beginning in April 1996[3].

Under the ownership of National Express, the essential nature of the service remained unchanged, but the entire train fleet was replaced with newly-built "Juniper" trains.

In 2005, a pair of Class 458 units, 458001 and 458002, transferred from South West Trains for use as a spare train if a 460 unit is out of action. They remained in South West Trains livery but with Gatwick Express branding. Their seating was modified from high density 3+2 seating configuration to 2+2 configuration, some seating was removed and replaced with luggage racks. However, these units were never called into service and have returned to operations with South West Trains.

File:Unit 460008 at East Croydon.JPG

A Class 460 goes through East Croydon, showing a good example of the Gatwick Express livery

In 2006, following the introduction of the modern fleet, the final Class 73 service ran an evening service from London Victoria and back to mark the end of the era for these trains. Two examples of the Mk2 coaching stock previously used on the Gatwick Express service can be found at the Nottingham Transport Heritage Centre in Ruddington and a full length Gatwick Express at the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway. The latter train is hauled by a Class 31 diesel locomotive, painted in Gatwick Express livery.

From the end of 2004 to 2006, there was controversy surrounding the service with some rail groups believing that Gatwick Express trains, which often run half-full (compared to the severe overcrowding on other services), made poor use of the limited capacity on some of the busiest train lines in the country. The Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) made proposals in the Brighton Main Line Route Utilisation Strategy for the Gatwick Express service to be incorporated into existing London to Brighton mainline services operated by Southern in an attempt to relieve commuter congestion. The aim was to provide a regular ten minute interval service from London Victoria to Gatwick and the south coast. This idea was hotly disputed by the train operator as well as BAA, who feared that airport users would have to fight for space on the trains with commuters. In certain situations, such as the 07/07/2005 London bombings, rail emergencies, or other severe disruption, when normal trains to Redhill are/were cancelled, the Gatwick Express has been known to stop there. This is because of Redhill's unique rail connections to Reading, Wales, Birmingham and Kent.

Transfer to Southern[]

On 3 February 2006, the Department for Transport Rail Group (DfT), which took over the responsibilities of the SRA in summer 2005, announced that the service would be axed to free up space on the Brighton Main Line.[4] Gatwick Airport owner BAA campaigned to retain the dedicated airport link[5] saying that 80% of respondents to an online poll favoured retaining the service, with backing from many airlines using the airport.[6] Towards the end of 2006 the DfT embarked on a consultation exercise to examine the situation, offering four possible options - three of which would allow for some form of modified express service to be retained.[7] A decision was made to keep the Gatwick Express and to expand the service to Brighton at peak times from December 2008. The Gatwick Express franchise ended on 22 June 2008, when the service was transferred to Southern.[8] Initially, services continued unchanged.

File:442412 at Victoria 1.jpg

Class 442 Wessex Electrics have now been entered into service on 14 December 2008. These trains have now been refurbished. This picture shows 442412 in Gatwick Express livery at London Victoria station on the 18th June 2009

In December 2008, the Gatwick Express was extended to start at Brighton during the morning peak period, and to terminate there in the evening peak. This doubled the number of London-Brighton express trains during those periods. The extra capacity is provided by leasing a number of Class 442 units that were not in use. However, only six units were reconditioned in time for the change, so three of these six services are initially being run using stock that has not been refurbished. The combined South Central/Gatwick Express franchise ended in September 2009, and allowed the new franchise holder (Southern) time to implement the major timetable changes planned for December 2009.[9] The Gatwick Express retains its separate branding as part of the new franchise, similar to that of the Stansted Express within the Greater Anglia franchise.


London - Gatwick is one of few journeys on the UK National Rail network for which passengers are required to choose between different operators when buying tickets — on all other flows shared by different National Rail operators tickets for immediate travel are inter-available, although some restrictions may apply on cheaper tickets. Through tickets for which the London-Gatwick line is part of a permitted route are valid on the Gatwick Express, provided they are not endorsed "NOT GATWICK EXPRESS." Tickets from London to stations south of Gatwick generally bear this restriction. Passengers cannot travel on Gatwick Express using the Network Railcard discount for South East England. Southern tickets to Redhill can be used in emergencies, as the train stops there during such times.

Standard Gatwick Express services do not charge penalty fares and permit tickets to be purchased on board with no extra charge. However, journeys to or from stations south of Gatwick are subject to penalty fares.[10][11] This rule applies, as of December 2008, to the six weekday services each way that start or end at Brighton.

Rolling stock[]

Current fleet[]

The Class 460 "Juniper" entered service on the Gatwick Express route in 2000, and there are eight of these 8-car units currently used on Gatwick Express services. Class 442 "Wessex Electrics" units entered service on the 14 December 2008. These units are coupled together to form 10 car trains. In peak hours, these trains run services to Brighton. The trains were recently refurbished for use on the route. The refurbishment included new seats, more seats, new large luggage racks and a new first class area in what used to be the buffet. The refurbishment also included a repaint into a modified version of the Gatwick Express livery.

Under the "Sussex Route Utilisation Strategy" document published on 28th January 2010, Network Rail stated that the class 460 fleet would be removed from Gatwick Express operations by Dec 2010 to strengthen operations elsewhere, possibly augmenting the similar Class 458 units working for South West Trains on routes out of London Waterloo[12].

Class Image Type Top speed Number Routes operated Built
mph km/h
Class 73 File:73201 at Clapham Junction.JPG electro-diesel locomotive 90 145 1 Thunderbird Locomotive 1962
Class 460 (8Gat) Juniper File:460007 at London Victoria.jpg electrical multiple units 100 160 8 London Victoria - Gatwick Airport 2000 - 2001
Class 442 (5Wes) Wessex Electric File:442412 at Victoria 2.jpg Electric multiple unit 100 160 17 London Victoria - Gatwick Airport

London Victoria - Brighton (Peaks only)

1988-89 (Refurbished for Gatwick Express 2008)

File:Class 442 Southern Diagram.PNG Template:Wide image

Past fleet[]

 Class   Image   Type   Built   Withdrawn 
Class 488 File:8313 at London Victoria.jpg Converted Mark 2 coaches 1983 - 1984 2005
Class 489 (GLV) File:9107 at Wirksworth.jpg electric multiple unit 1983 - 1984 2005


The latest performance figures for Gatwick Express services to be released by the ORR as of the first quarter of the financial year 2008/9 are 95.8% PPM and 93.0% MAA.[13] These figures are slightly up on those of the same periods last year.

See also[]


  1. National Rail Journey Planner - May 2009
  2. Vincent, Mike (April 2004). The Intercity Story. OPC Railprint. ISBN 9780860935247. 
  3. Gatwick Express - Our History. Gatwick Express. Retrieved on 21 February 2010.
  4. Template:Cite news
  5. Save the Gatwick Express. BAA Gatwick. BAA. Archived from the original on 12 December 2006. Retrieved on 18 February 2007.
  6. Template:Cite news
  7. Template:Cite news
  8. Template:Cite news
  9. Agreement signed to amend Gatwick Express and Southern franchises. DfT Rail Group. DfT. Archived from the original on 18 July 2007. Retrieved on 27 June 2007.
  10. Gatwick Extension - Southern railway (December 2008). Retrieved on 23 December 2008.
  11. Gatwick Express - New Extended Service (December 2008). Retrieved on 3 January 2009.
  13. ORR statistics

External links[]


Preceded by
As part of British Rail
Operator of Gatwick Express franchise
1997 — 2008
Succeeded by
South Central/Gatwick Express
Preceded by
Gatwick Express
Gatwick Express franchise
Sub-brand of South Central franchise
2008 — present


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