A new rail service is being planned offering faster connections between London and Luton Airport, and an alternative to the current Thameslink service.

The new franchise operator for the East Midlands Railway, Abellio made the commitment to improve the rail links with the airport as part of its franchise bid.

This new rail service will come into service by December 2020, and will feature fast trains between St Pancras and Luton Airport Parkway every 30 minutes.

East Midland Railway already operates a service between Luton and St Pancras, but it’s just one train per hour – versus the six trains per hour operated by Thameslink. Although Luton Airport has been lobbying for a service of 4 trains per hour, the new franchise has settled for half that number.

Currently, the Thameslink service which calls at all stations takes around 40 minutes, whereas the current once-per-hour East Midlands service takes around 20 minutes.

There will also be some improvements made at St Pancras including new waiting areas for all EMR customers including additional seating and better lounge areas.

Luton Airport Parkway railway station is itself currently about a mile from the airport, but they are building a rail shuttle to replace the current 10-minute bus service linking the two. That should come into service in 2021.


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  1. Paul Burton says:

    While these will have benefits for some, the problem for me is that if I want to travel from Leicester to Borehamwood without going via London, I have to change at Luton Airport Parkway. When the changes are made, I would have to change at both Kettering and Luton Airport Parkway to do the same route – thus increasing my journey time. The alternative will be to go via London. The problem there being it costs extra.

    • ianvisits says:

      It’s not benefits for some, but benefits very considerably many – and while you’ve lost out, which is obviously bad for you, you would have to agree that amending the Leicester to Borehamwood is not going to affect more than a handful of people.

  2. Bedford Rail says:

    The extra Luton Airport Parkway services are part of a fairly complicated set of trade-offs, and whether you benefit or lose out depends what journey you’re looking to make.

    The current calling pattern of East Midlands services is that there are 2tph calling at Bedford, each of which stops at either Luton or Luton Airport Parkway, but never both. One of them goes to/from Corby, and the other to/from long-distance East Midlands destinations. This means a fast journey time from Bedford to London, on the 125mph Meridian trains. But they do not operate in the peaks – they were withdrawn at those times in the May 2018 timetable change.

    Under the new plans, both of these trains will run to/from Corby, and be reinstated in the peaks. So the direct connectivity from Luton and Bedford to the East Midlands is gone. The extra Luton stops will add to the journey time, as will the switch to 110mph class 360 trains (though that makes little difference to Luton passengers, as there’s barely any 125mph track south of Luton). That said, they should be much nicer than the Thameslink class 700s!

    So, it’s a mix of good and bad, depending which passengers one is talking about. Funnily enough, EMR are promoting the up-sides but not the down-sides – it took me until the day after the franchise announcement to figure out what it all meant. https://twitter.com/BedfordRail/status/1116244497783042048

  3. MilesT says:

    I wouldn’t call the forthcoming link between airport and parkway a railway, a peoplemover shuttle is a fairer description, I think it is being built by one of thr companies which specialise in airport peoplemovers and ski resort lift systems.

    The new link should be a great improvement all the same as long as it operates frequently enough (unlike the peoplemover between Gatwick South/Train station and North).

  4. John R says:

    There are 4 TL trains each hour taking 30/32 mins, so it’s a bit misleading simply to state that the stopping services take 40 mins.

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