Travelling by tube to Heathrow can seriously damage your health

I thought my plan was flawless. At 3pm on the Friday afternoon I would take the tube to Heathrow, get there about 4pm, meet David, swish around the shops for an hour, and board the 5.40pm plane for Rome. Oh, a weekend in Tuscany, so simple, so effortless.

At 4pm I left the office. At 4.20pm Docklands Light Railway deposited me at Bank Tube. By 4.40pm I had managed to cut across town to Holborn and, after a agonising seven minute wait, at last caught a Piccadilly Line train that would take me the 22 stops (and counting) to Heathrow, terminal 2.

By now I was well aware that I was in trouble. Anyone who has made this trip will know that one hour is enough time to get to Heathrow, just, but add on time to check in, do the passport and security business, and it was obvious that I was up that dark brown creek without the proverbial paddle. And all swishing was definitely off the cards.

I began to time how long it took to go between two stations in an attempt to work out an exact ETA. The problem was that while it took minutes to rattle between some stations (Acton Town to South Ealing calmed me, slightly), others taunted me with endless miles of track (the trip to Boston Manor was interminably long).

As my anxiety grew, I became convinced that people were deliberately taking their time getting on and off the train. And did the tube driver think this was a Sunday drive?

I called David on my mobile phone and broke the news that it looked like a weekend in Tooting was possible but Tuscany was almost certainly off the cards. He seemed calm about my panic but said he would see if there was anything he could do to speed things up when, if, I got to Heathrow.

He called back to say that BA said they could only contemplate letting me on board if I arrived with a full 10 minutes to spare, but that I could check in at the gate. Unfortunately David couldn't check in himself because I had insisted on looking after the tickets.

The last part of the tube journey was the worst: tube plodding along, the hands on my watch spinning out of control. Why oh why did they build the station for terminal 4 before that of terminals 1,2,3? Why are these two stations so far apart?

Finally the tube rattled to a halt. By now I had enlisted the sympathies of several other passengers who all stood back as, at 4.23pm, I jumped from the carriage and started running for the terminal and my honour.

My god it's bloody miles! My mouth dried, I became flat footed, my bag pulled at my shoulders. Meanwhile a la Anneka I tried to talk to David on my mobile as he guided me to where he was waiting.

With exactly one minute to go before cut off time, I found him and a member of BA's ground crew who was waiting to help. She checked us in and phoned the gate to warn them that they had "two runners" and warned us that the plane would not wait. Running Man was off again. If you were in the queue for the X-Ray machine and got hit by two hysterical men with overgrown hand luggage, we beg forgiveness. If you were the immigration official who got told to hurry up, likewise, sorry.

Gate 46 was, of course, at the far end of the terminal. But we arrived wheezing, sweating, and with two minutes to go. We were immediately followed by two more groups of "runners" who were all perspiration and apologies.

All the way to Rome I was convinced that I was about to suffer cardiac arrest. A stiff vodka saved me.

And then just this week someone had the cheek to ask me if we really need the upcoming high-speed Heathrow rail connection. Pah! Do we need Boston Manor, Hounslow Central and Hatton Cross? No, take them off the tube line now.

Jeremy Atiyah is in Iraq (honest).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: Membership Administrator

    £23K: Guru Careers: We're seeking an experienced Membership Administrator, to ...

    Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

    £32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

    Guru Careers: Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Chef

    £27K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Che...

    Guru Careers: Events Coordinator / Junior Events Planner

    £24K + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Events Coordinator ...

    Day In a Page

    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
    The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

    The ZX Spectrum is back

    The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
    Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

    Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

    The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
    Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

    Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

    If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
    The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

    The quirks of work perks

    From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
    Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

    Is bridge becoming hip?

    The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
    Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

    The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

    Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
    The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

    The rise of Lego Clubs

    How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
    5 best running glasses

    On your marks: 5 best running glasses

    Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
    Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

    'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

    Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
    Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

    Please save my husband

    As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada