Luton plans light rail link to speed transport, making it a stronger competitor against Gatwick
Luton plans to replace its much-maligned bus transfer service, from the station to the airport, and instead build a light rail link, costing £200 million. The 1.3 mile rail link could cut the journey time from London St Pancras to the Luton airport terminal to less than 30 minutes, which is faster than the time to Gatwick. It would connect to the terminal from within the Luton Airport Parkway railway station, one level above the platforms. A normal rail link has not been possible due to the steepness of the climb uphill to the terminal. The automated light rail service will be funded by Luton Borough Council, which owns the airport freehold and owns the necessary land. The role of the council will be controversial and the scheme will need to be scrutinised for conflict of interest. The airport is spending a further £110 million on redeveloping its terminals and layout to expand capacity from 9 million to 18 million passengers per year by 2020. EasyJet, the biggest airline using Luton, said the redevelopment was a key factor in its pledge to double the size of its operations there over the next decade. A planning application would be made in autumn for work to begin in 2017. The DfT is also working to enable travel between London and Luton by Oyster card or contactless payment by 2018.
Luton airport to replace bus transfers with £200m light rail link
Link between airport and local train station set to make transfers to London faster than those from Gatwick to capital
By Gwyn Topham, Transport correspondent (Guardian)
Friday 15 April 2016
Luton airport plans to park its much-maligned bus transfer service once and for all and build a £200m light rail link to the nearest railway station.
The fast-track service would make journey times between the capital and Luton airport faster than for those flying via Gatwick, the airport claimed.
The 24-hour, automated light-rail link would replace the buses currently used to transfer travellers between the station and the terminal, making the fastest complete journey from Luton airport to London St Pancras less than 30 minutes.
The 1.3-mile link will be funded by Luton borough council, which owns the airport freehold. While the station is almost adjacent to the airport perimeter, it is around 40 metres downhill from it, making a fixed rail link difficult to build.
Luton airport is spending a further £110m on redeveloping its terminals and layout to expand capacity to 18 million passengers a year by 2020.
The chief executive, Nick Barton, said: “We’re delighted Luton borough council is making the investment. It’s perfect for us: we’ve been on a journey but there’s always been that fundamental gap between the terminal and the very good train service – served by a bus, which just isn’t good enough.”
The rail link would connect to the terminal from within the railway station, one level above the platforms.
Barton said: “It’s raising the game and raising our standard. When you get to Luton Airport Parkway you will think that you’re actually at the terminal.”
EasyJet, the biggest carrier at the airport, welcomed the news, saying the redevelopment was a key factor in its pledge to double the size of its operations there over the next decade.
A planning application would be made in autumn for work to begin in 2017.
While Barton cautioned that it would need to “be scrutinised more closely than a normal application” because of any perceived conflict in the council’s ownership of the airport, which is let as a long-term concession, all of the land required is already owned by the council.
He said Luton was working closely with the Department for Transport to remove barriers to rail travel to the airport, including tackling any ticketing confusion, and allowing passengers to travel between the airport and London using Oyster card or contactless payment by 2018.
Luton would also benefit from the upgrade of Thameslink trains, as well as being served by St Pancras, Barton said.
“The whole train story is just transforming and this is the next big – but very big step – to making that journey superb.”
The news is likely to prompt further chagrin at the rival Stansted airport, where hopes of a fast rail connection to central London have been dampened by Network Rail concluding that upgrades would only shave 2-5 minutes from the current 45-53 minute train journey.
Passenger numbers grew 17% to 12.3 million in 2015 at Luton, which indirectly employs more than 8,600 staff. The airport serves 123 destinations, mainly operated by low-cost and charter airlines.
Luton Airport’s £200m light rail link proposals could see it vying with Gatwick for passengers
15.4.2016 (Business Daily)
New proposals for a £200m light rail link from Luton Airport Parkway train station to London Luton Airport could significantly cut journey times to the airport from central London.
The plans, which have been put together by Luton Borough Council, would see the introduction of driverless trains to ferry air passengers from the train station, replacing the current shuttle service which takes 15 minutes.
Running 24 hours a day, the proposed 1.4 mile rail link would also connect with the airport’s parking facilities and, if approved, could cut journey times from London St Pancras to below 30 minutes according to the airport.
This would make journey times quicker from the middle of the capital than the comparable journey to Gatwick.
The proposals have been designed by developers Arup and are pencilled in for a 2020 completion date, pending planning approval which is due to be submitted in the Autumn.
Nick Barton, chief executive, said: “We’re delighted Luton borough council is making the investment. It’s perfect for us: we’ve been on a journey but there’s always been that fundamental gap between the terminal and the very good train service – served by a bus, which just isn’t good enough.“
“It’s raising the game and raising our standard. When you get to Luton Airport Parkway you will think that you’re actually at the terminal.“
The airport is currently carrying out a £110 million redevelopment of its main terminal and is looking to introduce Oyster ticketing to Luton Airport Parkway by 2018.