It’s been mentioned on here a few times, so I thought I’d try the option of going from and to Heathrow via Feltham. As it happens my choice was vindicated by severe delays on the Piccadilly line on the morning of my arrival.
The route is 285 bus from Heathrow Central bus station (for T1-3), or 490 from T5 and T4, to Feltham railway station, then South West Trains direct to Waterloo via Clapham Junction.
Under normal conditions it’s not a replacement for the tube from Heathrow (it takes a little longer, costs a little more and only gets you to Waterloo), BUT ……
1) It’s a viable alternative if there are long delays or engineering works on the Piccadilly line, or if there’s a tube strike.
2) It’s very viable if traveling to the likes of Putney, Wandsworth, Clapham Junction, Croydon and points south.
3) It’s a very viable (and much cheaper) alternative to the National Express coach when traveling Heathrow-Gatwick or Gatwick-Heathrow (see below).
I arrived at T1 on Dec 17 and as mentioned above, the Piccadilly line had severe delays. I added a 7 day travelcard and some PAYG onto my Oyster at T123 tube station and took the escalator to the bus station immediately above, boarding the 285 at 8.30am. The 285 is a single decker bus, and there is room for luggage in the section reserved for disabled passengers and strollers (if such a passenger boards you would have to remove the luggage and it may get quite cramped). The journey to Feltham took exactly 30 minutes. The bus stops right outside Feltham railway station, and the walk from bus stop, through the ticket hall and barriers and onto platform 1 is all of 10 meters. The 9.05 train to Waterloo arrived at 9.07 (a fast train calling at Twickenham, Richmond and Clapham Junction); the journey time was 18 minutes to Clapham Jct and 23 minutes to Waterloo, getting me there at 9.33am for a total journey time of 63 minutes. From there I continued on the Jubilee line to Canary Wharf for my brother’s house.
My return to Heathrow on Dec 29 was from my mother’s house in Chipstead Surrey (on the Tattenham Corner line right on the zone 6 boundary). This took a mightily impressive 1hr27 (I usually budget 1hr45 to 2hrs when going into London and taking the tube) though I may have been lucky as all the trains synced near perfectly. Southern train from Chipstead (dep 8.33) to East Croydon (arr 8.51), then a fast Southern towards Victoria (dep 8.53) getting off at Clapham Junction (9.04), and changing to a SWT to Feltham (dep 9.08, arr 9.29). This was a slower train to Windsor & Eton and called at Putney, Richmond, Twickenham and Whitton. In order to arrive next to the lifts at Clapham Jct sit in the rear of the trains heading to London, and the front if heading out of London. On arrival at Feltham there are two lifts from platform 2 to the footbridge to get you to the exit for the buses. The 285 bus arrived at 9.35am and took just 25 minutes to get to Heathrow, arriving at 10am.
An added bonus of the return journey was that as I avoided zone 1, the total peak fare (on Oyster) from Chipstead was just £4.70, compared to £9.70 had I gone into zone 1 and taken the tube.
Next time I plan to try out the X26 bus (if I can get a ride from Chipstead to/from Sutton).
Traveling between Heathrow and Gatwick –
The journey time between Gatwick and Heathrow (via Feltham) using a Southern train to Clapham Junction, SWT to Feltham and 285 bus is approximately 1hr32* (1hr05* to Feltham and a further 27 mins to Heathrow Central by bus) , and costs £17.30 total cash fares (2012). This compares to 1hr15 and £24.50 on the National Express coach. However, for people making this journey late evening and needing a hotel, the Feltham Travelodge is less than 100m from the station. This means you can travel to Feltham, overnight at the Travelodge, and then continue on to the other airport the next morning, not having to wait for buses to take you to/from an off airport hotel at either Heathrow or Gatwick (and possibly pay £4.50 each way on a Hoppa). You can take the train from Gatwick and connect to Feltham as late as 23:13 on a weekday. The 285 bus is a 24 hour service running every 30 minutes in the early hours, and the 490 (for T4-5) is almost 24hr (stops at 1.39am and resumes at 3.37am).
(* - slower on Sundays)Edited: 5:16 pm, December 31, 2011