LHR passport control + London transit
October 3, 2014 12:35 AM   Subscribe

From [LHR plane arrival] to [arrival at Herne Hill station], midday on a Saturday in March: help me estimate how long?

My plane would arrive Saturday at 12:50.

I'd be headed to a meeting near the Herne Hill station that runs 13:30-17:30, trying to be present for as much of it as possible.

I'm a U.S. citizen (but I'd be arriving from Sweden [VBY-ARN-LHR], with my next flight being LHR-ARN the following day). My passport has no unusual stamps and I'd follow these tips for passport control.

These are my four segments, right? I'd love your help with estimating any of these:

1) time from my plane's Terminal 2 arrival to the start of the line for passport control (with only carry-on luggage);

2) guess/range for my wait through the passport control line;

3) time from passport control exit to boarding public transit; and

4) time for public transit to Herne Hill station -- OR taxi if you think it would be faster despite traffic -- OR combo of public and taxi, since all the public options have at least one transfer point.

For transit, I get different estimates from Google Maps and from TFL. I have no experience with London transit, although I have lots with other big/crowded systems such as NYC's.

(I haven't booked this flight yet; I'm trying to decide whether the detour to London would be worth booking, partly based on how much of this meeting I could be present for. And due to my schedule, it's this flight or not at all.)
posted by kalapierson to Travel & Transportation around London, England (13 answers total)
I have found Citymapper.com to be the most reliable source of public transport travel time, more so than the TFL guide. It says you're looking at about 75 mins. A car would probably take about the same, I'd guess.

I would recommend you leave one hour to clear through security from your plane, though often it can be quicker.

So you can be sure of arriving at your destination by 4.15pm latest, I'd say.
posted by skylar at 12:53 AM on October 3, 2014

Best answer: 1) T2 is huge and you have no idea what gate you'll be at. This is a minimum 10 minute walk.

2) An hour. It's a weekend; I would absolutely not plan on less than this.

3) 10 minutes plus 10 minutes to wait for your train, so 20 minutes.

4) An hour and 15 minutes. Booking a car service rather than public transport might shave 15 minutes off this but given weekend traffic I'd bet against that.

I make that close to 3 hours of transit time. At best, you'll be there at 4 pm.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:54 AM on October 3, 2014

DarlingBri's estimates seem pretty good to me - although if anything a touch optimistic.

I'd add 30mins to the estimate, plus whatever time you need to get from Herne Hill to your meeting. A car may or may not be quicker from Heathrow but it would at least be door to door so if the cost isn't a concern I'd suggest it as it will reduce stress.
posted by Simon_ at 1:21 AM on October 3, 2014

DarlingBri is pretty much on it, but it could be more than three hours. You must realise that this could be pretty variable. Here's my best case estimate - from "You got completely lucky" to "Oh dear, you didn't".

1. Fifteen mins. Five to get off the plane, ten to walk to passport control. But as DarlingBri says, T2 is massive, and if you come in at one of the remote gates you'll walk what seems like half a mile.

2. Ten mins. If you're lucky. Could be as much as 45 if you're not.

3. Passport control to London Underground to actually getting on your Piccadilly Line train: 10 - 20 minutes

4. Piccadilly line to Earls Court, change to District or Circle line to Victoria: probably around an hour. Then you have to get upstairs to the mainline station and get an overground to Herne Hill. Probably another half hour.

I think two and a half hours is the absolute best you could do and you'd have to have a pretty miraculously smooth run at all stages to make that. Myself, I'd expect three and allow three and a half to be comfortable.

Factors to consider:

At the time you're arriving traffic shouldn't be too horrendous (just normal London horrendous!) and a car to Herne Hill might take as little as an hour. Emphasis on "might". It will also cost you an absolute packet, especially if you take a (metered) black cab. If you decide to do it this way, pre-book a minicab. It will probably cost around forty quid. If you take a black cab and get bad traffic you'll need a mortgage.

You know about Oyster cards, right? If you plan to use the tube or any other public transport, first thing you do is buy that Oyster card and put some cash on it. It saves you a lot of money. The fare from Heathrow to Central London on the tube is £5.70. You will need to pay another fare for the Victoria - Herne Hill trip.

If it were me and time was no great object, I'd go the tube/overground route. Otherwise I'd probably spring for a minicab, given the time of day. For one thing it's far less to think about. You fall into that cab, say "take me to Herne Hill" and then enjoy the scenery.
posted by Decani at 1:32 AM on October 3, 2014

One other option would be Heathrow Express to Paddington then taxi. Train time is 15 minutes but they are only every 30 minutes at the weekend I think. Theoretical taxi time would be 40 minutes but traffic. Personally if getting a cab from Paddington I don't bother with the taxi rank, I got out the front of the station and hail one.
posted by biffa at 1:50 AM on October 3, 2014

1) 15 minutes. If you can, get a seat near the front of the plane for faster debarkation.
2) 20 min - 1 hour (you'll still have to go in the "All other nationalities" queue, and have a prefilled landing card. Britain is not part of Schegen, so you are entering a new area.
3) 15 minutes
4) I would probably take the piccadilly line - getting from Paddington down can be a pain via taxi. Or take Heathrow express to paddington, then take the Bakerloo, and then at Elephant & Castle grab a taxi. Plan 1 hr 30min.
posted by troytroy at 2:01 AM on October 3, 2014

Best answer: I live near Herne Hill, and the fastest route is definitely Heathrow Express, Bakerloo line to Elephant, then thameslink to Herne Hill. That part of the journey should be doable in an hour if you time it well, and an hour 30 at worst. Do not get a taxi, I have driven this route many times and at best it took two hours, at worst it took me more than four hours. Saturday lunchtime traffic is particularly awful in south London, everyone is out shopping. A taxi will also be substantially over £100.

If my plane was landing at 12.50 I would expect to be in Herne Hill at around 3pm. Everyone else is right though that all bets are off re passport control. Sometimes you will waltz through, but if you have a non-EU passport I would expect it to take a while.
posted by tinkletown at 2:41 AM on October 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If you are seriously trying to attend a meeting that runs 13:30 - 17:30 then might I suggest you do everything in your power to rearrange and get an earlier flight from Sweden. Herne Hill is on the south side of London and you have got a lot going against you. All of the estimates above look about right but in reality it is very difficult to estimate with so many variable sinvoled. Alternatively can you not use the wonders of technology to be there via conference / skype etcetera?
posted by numberstation at 3:11 AM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Many thanks for all the help!

Yeah, this looks like it's not going to work this way. (numberstation: good thought but sadly this isn't something I could be part of remotely.)
posted by kalapierson at 9:20 AM on October 3, 2014

Just another note on passport control: I have found that T5 is uniformly efficient. All bets are off at other terminals. I have been through in 5 minutes, but once, coming in from Oslo, I was in the queue for nearly two hours. US passport.
posted by brianogilvie at 11:20 AM on October 3, 2014

Depends on who else is in the queue. Anecdotally, if you are a non-EU passport holder on a flight from India (ie nobody else on the plane is an EU passport holder either, and lots have non-straightforward visas to be checked over) you can spend 4 hours in passport control even at T5 even if you personally are super straightforward.

Flight from Sweden is probably fine, but you never know what else is landing at the same time as you.
posted by tinkletown at 3:27 PM on October 3, 2014

As an alternative suggestion: have you looked at flights to Gatwick? might have a slightly better time range. Norwegian flies from Stockholm to Gatwick, for instance.
posted by troytroy at 5:51 AM on October 4, 2014

Response by poster: Nope, this is the one possible flight. Coming from VBY is the issue. (Very limited flights during March and I want to be still in VBY through Friday night.)
posted by kalapierson at 12:04 AM on October 5, 2014

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