Heathrow to King's Cross
April 10, 2014 7:26 PM   Subscribe

How long do I need to allow (on a Wednesday morning) between the plane landing and catching a train from King's Cross? My flight is due to land at 8.45am. In an ideal situation, I would be on the 13.48 train to Hull. Is this reasonable?

It's an hour on the underground to King's Cross, so this is really a question about how long I should expect immigration to take and how long it takes to pick up the train tickets.

I think I've done this exact trip before, but it was in 2005 and I don't remember which train I ended up on, only sitting bleary eyed in the McDonald's across from King's Cross killing time. At the time, if you purchased a ticket in advance on Hull Trains, it was waiting for you on the train and you didn't have to collect it at the station. Is this still the case? If not, can I use the machines if I don't have a credit card with a chip? Or do I have to stand in the long line at the ticket office?
posted by hoyland to Travel & Transportation around London, England (15 answers total)
Are you landing at Heathrow? Last two time I went through (also around that time) it was maybe an hour at most. I make it you've got a 3 hour margin - tons of time even if you have exceptionally bad luck at the airport.
posted by PercussivePaul at 7:43 PM on April 10, 2014

Do you have an EU passport, or non-EU? If you are non-EU, in my experience you should allow an hour from getting off the plane to collecting your luggage. Most of this time will be spent queuing in immigration.

Which Heathrow terminal are you flying in to? If it's terminal 5, add 20 minutes to the above, as you have to take a shuttle from the gate to immigration. Also, the Tube is a bit of a hike from some terminals (and terminal 4 you you may need to take a connecting train to one of terminals), and you will need to queue up behind people who don't have the right coins or the right card to buy a tube ticket.
posted by girlgenius at 8:00 PM on April 10, 2014

I have done this many times, and it is just about an hour on the underground from Heathrow to King's Cross. That said, as previous posters have confirmed, the wild card is time spent queued in immigration if you have a non-EU passport. I have spent 1-2 hours in the arrivals hall in that queue before. Then you have to wait for your luggage (assuming you have it), and then there are queues getting onto the underground (and getting tickets), possibly taking a shuttle, etc. Then obviously there are flight delays. I personally would never buy a ticket in advance on a King's Cross train if I were flying into Heathrow - or if I absolutely *had* to, I'd allow probably 5-6 hours if you can't eat the cost of losing the ticket and buying another on the day.
posted by ClaireBear at 8:27 PM on April 10, 2014

An 845AM arrival puts you at something of a crush time, so I concur that you need to give yourself at least a good hour+ to negotiate passport control, baggage retrieval, and customs. I'd avoid the Tube from Heathrow to Kings Cross.

The Heathrow Express is a costly but quick connection between Heathrow and Paddington Station--and makes the journey in about 15 minutes. From Paddington, it's a moderately quick Tube ride to Kings Cross via Circle or City and Hammersmith.

My main concern would be if the plane had any delays, which would push back your arrival time and complicate any advanced planning you might have.
posted by Quaversalis at 10:25 PM on April 10, 2014

You can buy an electronic ticket from London to Hull with the train operating company's app. That removes the queuing time at KX from your calculations; just go straight from the tube to the platform.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 1:00 AM on April 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

You're landing at 8.45 and catching a train at 13.48? That's five hours! You could probably go there and back and there again in that time. It won't take you any more than an hour at the airport and it will take between 30 seconds and five minutes to pick up your tickets at King's Cross. Really, you should be asking one of those "Do I have time to see Buckingham Palace and the Tate?" questions.
posted by cincinnatus c at 1:53 AM on April 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

Yes, this is going to be totally fine barring really huge delay issues, which you can't plan for anyway.

I don't think the extraordinary cost of the Heathrow Express is worth it if your destination is Kings Cross; the time saved is likely to be minor and the additional change at Paddington is slightly annoying. If you don't mind the price it will certainly be a pleasanter ride at that time of day, though.
posted by oliverburkeman at 5:03 AM on April 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes, into Heathrow. I'm not sure of the terminal. It's Virgin Atlantic from O'Hare, but that flight isn't listed for this week, so it may not exist yet. It looks like their North American arrivals are into Terminal 3.

You can buy an electronic ticket from London to Hull with the train operating company's app. That removes the queuing time at KX from your calculations; just go straight from the tube to the platform.

Any idea if this would work on an iPod touch? I suppose I shouldn't risk it--Delta's app let you access your boarding pass without a data connection and then they updated it, making it useless if you weren't on wi-fi. Do they have print-at-home tickets?

(I would just go on a later train, but I'm trying to avoid a) having a tight connection in Doncaster and b) needing to make sure I'm awake for Doncaster. It's hard to miss the last stop.)
posted by hoyland at 5:28 AM on April 11, 2014

I went to Hull from King's X on Tuesday. I bought my ticket from thetrainline.com in advance, was able to print it, and just scanned it through the turnstiles - easy!
posted by teststrip at 6:20 AM on April 11, 2014

I did this trip, even down to flying Virgin Atlantic from the US, landing around 8:30 and leaving Kings Cross(well, St Pancras, but basically the same) around 1:30. I took the underground instead of the Heathrow Express, and I think I still enjoyed the free wifi at the station for about two or three hours before getting to my train. As long as the plane isn't horribly delayed, you have plenty of time.
posted by Schismatic at 6:45 AM on April 11, 2014

Hull Trains say you need a chip-and-pin card to use the self-service machines and that I've got to book and then phone them to arrange to collect the ticket from the ticket office.
posted by hoyland at 8:05 AM on April 11, 2014

How soon is your trip? You can get a chip and pin card from some US banks. Mine appears to not be requesting a my PIN but a signature at some places but it worked for the Oyster card machine.
posted by oneear at 1:16 PM on April 11, 2014

Do they have print-at-home tickets?

Yes - just go to the Hull Trains site and book there. (Bonus, you won't pay the booking fee a third party site charges.)
posted by Busy Old Fool at 3:36 PM on April 11, 2014

So at this point I've booked the tickets, but there was no print-at-home option. Some digging on the website suggests this might be because I have to change at Hull and Northern Rail perhaps isn't playing along with the print-at-home thing. I'm going to phone Hull Trains on Monday and try and arrange to collect the ticket from the office at King's Cross.
posted by hoyland at 6:41 PM on April 11, 2014

Since everyone was waiting with bated breath...

My flights got really messed up, so I landed at Heathrow at 11.30 or so following an impromptu trip to Canada. Absolutely no line at immigration (I used the new e-passport gates!) and I was in King's Cross at 12.45.

The ticket machines do read the magnetic strip, so I retrieved my tickets without a problem. (This is what Hull Trains said when I finally got through to them on the phone.)
posted by hoyland at 3:59 AM on May 21, 2014

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