Luton has plans for direct rail line to cut train journey from central London to 20 minutes
Luton airport wants to have a rail link that connects directly to the Midlands mainline and reaches central London in 20 minutes. Luton is starting a £100 million project that would increase its passenger capacity by 50%, up to 18 million per year. That follows a significant upgrade of the nearby stretch of the M1 and the creation of its own airport junction. Currently getting to the airport by public transport is a hassle, and airport staff agree that it puts off many travellers despite Luton’s destinations offered by easyJet, Wizz Air and Ryanair. Luton wants to be an integrated part of the transport network. The work starting now is to increase aircraft runway access, the number of boarding piers, and terminal space (including more shops) should be finished by 2020. The airport’s operators — Aena, the Spanish-owned largest airport group in the world and Ardian private equity — are funding the present construction programme, the question of who pays for a rail link is unresolved. The airport’s freehold is owned by Luton borough council and Aena and Ardian’s operating concession expires in 2031. So will the taxpayer have to pay for rail improvements? Luton wants to attract Norwegian from Gatwick, and Vueling from Heathrow.
Luton Airport reveals plans for direct rail line that would cut train journey from central London to just 20 minutes
- Plans part of £100m project that will increase passenger numbers by 50%
- Current journey time includes bus travel from London Airport Parkway
- But airport bosses look to connect terminal direct with Midlands mainline
The Bedfordshire airport, though marketed as London’s fourth airport, has submitted plans for a £100million upgrade of the site that will increase passenger capacity by 50 per cent as well as enhance the customer experience.
And key to that is cutting any journey time to and from the airport from the capital.
Currently the shortest train journey from London to Luton Airport Parkway is 20 minutes from St Pancras International, but passengers are forced to ride a bus for the final mile of the journey.
But the project is looking at the idea of connecting the airport directly to the Midlands rail line, which will mean the entire journey will take 20 minutes non-stop.
Speaking to The Times, chief executive at the airport Nick Barton said: ‘The bus service meets the basic criteria [but] the plan is to come up with a long-term solution.
‘The options are around a mass passenger system which could be light rail or heavy [conventional] rail.’
And Ollie Jaycock, head of Marketing & Strategic Affairs at London Luton told MailOnline Travel: ‘The project has been gearing up over the last year to see how building and improvement work could improve the transport infrastructure at the airport.
‘The greatest opportunity for us to do that is rail, and there are two big things we are trying to do.
Then the final piece of the jigsaw is how we can speed up the ‘last mile,’ and that is the biggest hurdle for us.
‘We are working with central government to see whether there could be a direct rail solution for this.’
While the Davies Commission recommended Heathrow for a 3rd runway, [the 7th for the London area, including Southend] it also said: ‘It is imperative that the UK continues to grow its domestic and international connectivity in this period, and this will require the more intensive utilisation of existing airports other than Heathrow and Gatwick.’
And it appears London Luton Airport is doing just that. The aim is to increase passenger footfall from the current 12 million to at least 18 million by 2026.
As well as looking into a direct rail service, Luton Airport will be added to the Oyster Card network in September.
The project also plans to double existing retail space and develop a new world-class executive lounge, as well as improve road travel links in and out of the terminal.
Passenger numbers at London Luton Airport grew by 16 per cent in June compared with the same month last year. A record-breaking 1.2million passengers travelled through the airport in June, marking 15 months of consecutive growth.
Luton offers a choice of low-cost airlines including Ryanair, easyJet and Wizz Air, yet it is believed the staggered journey to and from the airport puts many travellers off.
A spokesperson for the airport added: ‘At the moment you can get to the Airport from London St Pancras in just 20 minutes and we’re working closely with the train operators to introduce more frequent fast trains from London, the Midlands and the South East.
‘From December 2015 trains will operate services throughout the night, with at least two trains per hour, so you can get to the airport or get home quickly after you land even when your flight is in the early hours.
‘We’re upgrading the shuttle bus service between the station and the airport so you are picked up and dropped off right outside the terminal.
‘We’re also looking into a longer-term improvement such as a mass passenger system that could be light or conventional rail.’
Sophie Dekkers, director of UK Market for easyJet, who are based at the airport, told MailOnline Travel: ‘London Luton Airport is a hugely important part of our London airport strategy and it remains our head office base.
‘The transformation of the airport was a key factor in our commitment to double our passenger numbers at London Luton Airport over the next 10 years and we have ambitious plans for growth which will result in an even greater range of business and leisure destinations for our passengers.
‘We have already started this expansion with new routes for next winter in addition to those which launched earlier this Summer. We are also basing three more aircraft at the airport this year and we’re really pleased to be supporting the airport in this way.’
See also The Times, article at