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Getting to Stansted Airport by Train

If you’re taking a low-cost flight out of London, then it’s likely that you’ll be travelling from Stansted Airport. But how do you get there and what are the trains like? We’ve taken a trip out of Stansted Airport to show you what it’s like travelling to and from Stansted Airport by train.

What are the choices for getting to Stansted Airport by train?

If you’re travelling to and from London, then you’ll be taking the Stansted Express. There’s just the one operator here!

When it comes to getting to Stansted Airport by train from other destinations, there are a couple of choices:

Greater Anglia run roughly every hour between Norwich, Cambridge and Stansted Airport. They operate Class 755 Stadler ‘FLIRT’ trains which have either three or four carriages. These modern trains also have power sockets at every seat and free WiFi:

Stadler 'FLIRT' Class 755 train

CrossCountry operate trains every two hours (with some extras in the morning peak) between Stansted Airport, Peterborough, Leicester and Birmingham New Street. If you have a lot of luggage and don’t want the hassle of travelling via London, then they’re a good option for getting across to the Midlands without needing to change.

On this route, you’ll find Class 170 ‘Turbostar’ units, which have either two or three carriages. Unfortunately, they don’t have any power sockets for charging devices in Standard Class:

CrossCountry train from Birmingham New Street to Stansted Airport

What’s the Stansted Express?

As we mentioned before, your main option for getting to Stansted Airport by train is the Stansted Express. It runs every half hour during Off-Peak hours, and from May 21, 2023, it’ll run every 15 minutes between 06:00 and 09:15, and 16:45 and 20:15.

All services typically take between 45 and 50 minutes to complete their trip. During Off-Peak hours, all trains stop at Bishops Stortford, Harlow Town and Tottenham Hale, with one per hour stopping at Stansted Mountfitchet. When trains are more frequent, they’ll stop at either Bishops Stortford or Harlow Town (all trains still call at Tottenham Hale). One train per hour still calls at Stansted Mountfitchet, too.

Let’s take a look at what you can expect on your trip.

The cost

Before any Railcard discounts, an Anytime Return between London Liverpool Street and Stansted Airport is £34.60. It’s £21.90 if you’re just making a one-way trip.

The return ticket is valid to return within one month.

The trains themselves

All Stansted Express services are operated by Class 745 Stadler ‘FLIRT’ trains. They have 12 carriages and were introduced during 2020.

They’re good-looking trains and we’re definitely a fan of them:

class 745 stansted express train at stansted airport

Storing luggage

Getting to Stansted Airport by train is pretty simple when it comes to storing your luggage. The overhead racks are good for keeping large backpacks and other items while you’ll find plenty of bigger racks near the doors:

luggage racks on a stansted express train

The trains are also fully walk-through. This means that you can move between carriages without needing to pass through any doors, so moving around with a suitcase doesn’t have to be difficult.

The seat experience

Getting to Stansted Airport by train doesn’t have to be uncomfortable! The seats used on these trains are actually soft and well-padded, with a decent amount of legroom.

Seats on a Stansted Express train. Image shows a bay of 4 without a table

They’re all in a 2+2 layout. Just be mindful that there aren’t any full-sized tables, though the ‘airline’ style seats have a small table on the seatbacks.

Personally, we’d recommend seating on the ‘raised’ seats towards the carriage ends. It feels a bit more open and airy being sat a little higher! There aren’t any steps up either, so they’re easily accessed.

You’ll find power sockets between every pair of seats:

Power socket and USB port under seats on a Class 745 train

Onboard service

There aren’t any on-board staff on these trains. Regular automated announcements keep you informed about where you are during the trip.

Fancy an upgrade?

First Class was actually abolished when these new trains were introduced. However, it’s possible to sometimes get an ad-hoc upgrade!

Greater Anglia operates two almost-identical fleets of these trains. There’s this fleet, and there’s one for the Norwich route. The trains that go to Norwich have First Class, a buffet area and tables at seats.

While they usually stick to their own routes, occasionally a train with First Class ends up on the Stansted route. When this happens, First Class is open to all ticket-holders. It’s a bit more spacious and in a 2+1 layout.

How do you know if your train has First Class? You can do one of two things:

  • Check the number on the front of the train. Trains with First Class will start with a 0, eg. 003. As you’ll see in the picture above, the normal Stansted Express trains start with a 1, eg. 109
  • See if the outside of the train has carriage letters. Trains with First Class have carriage letters marked by the doors.

Is there anything else I should know about getting to Stansted Airport by train?

If you’re travelling towards Stansted Airport, head to the front of the train. Stansted Express trains are huge and tend to be much emptier at the front, even when the rear is quite crowded. You should have your ticket ready when you exit, too. There aren’t any ticket barriers but staff will regularly check tickets at the station exit. Leave some extra time to allow for this, as queues can form.

Travelling from Stansted and need a ticket? Don’t queue up at the machines in the baggage claim area if they’re busy. The station itself has many more machines for you to use. We found this out ourselves when we missed a train due to waiting so long!

Travelling on a CrossCountry train? The platform can be difficult to find. These trains leave from Platform 2:

CrossCountry train at Stansted Airport

It’s a small platform which is almost fully outside. To get to it, just keep heading forwards once you enter the station. Leave some extra time if you can, as it can take a couple of minutes to do this if you have heavy luggage.

Finally, why not book your tickets before you travel? You can skip the queues by booking an eTicket and head straight for your train. When you do it with Railsmartr, you can refund or change your ticket without fees if you need to.

We’ve even produced guides for getting to Gatwick and Heathrow.