Work has begun on Luton Airport’s mass passenger transport system, which is set to cost £225m.
Lord Gary Porter, chairman of the Local Government Association, turned the first sods of earth on the project watched by Cllr Hazel Simmons, leader of Luton Council, and Cllr Andy Malcolm, chair of the council-owned London Luton Airport Ltd (LLAL).
The Luton DART (Direct Air-Rail Transit) aims to connect Luton Airport Parkway station to the airport terminal in under four minutes, ‘enabling fast, easy access from central London to the departure terminal of the UK’s fifth biggest and fastest-growing major airport in 30 minutes by the fastest train’.
Cllr Malcolm said: ‘This investment by the council and its airport company will encourage and transform the experience of those travelling to the airport by rail, thereby helping to reduce congestion on the roads, and confirms our confidence in Luton’s potential for economic and employment growth.
‘The journey time from St Pancras will beat Liverpool Street to Stansted by 20 minutes and will be faster than Victoria to Gatwick too.’
LLAL awarded contracts in December for the civil works with VolkerFitzpatrick-Kier joint venture and for the transportation system with Doppelmayr Cable Car UK Ltd.
The Luton DART will be a double-shuttle, fully-automated people-mover (APM) capable of operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The cable-driven system is said to be energy efficient and environmentally friendly.
The 2.1km route will run between two purpose-built stations at Bartlett Square and the airport terminal, crossing a new gateway bridge over Airport Way. In peak time, a service will leave each station every four minutes.
The project has full planning permission from Luton and Central Bedfordshire councils, and is on track to be ready for operation by spring 2021.
Luton Borough Council originally put the cost of the project at £200m but the higher figure reflects the additional cost of the bridge.