The opening date of a new automated railway link between London Luton Aiport and the mainline railway has been pushed back until sometime early next year. It had been due to open this year. At the moment, the link between the airport and the nearest railway station, Luton Airport Parkway is by a shuttle bus, but the new rail link with cable-hauled trains will cut the journey times to under 4 minutes.

When it opens, the journey from St Pancras International to Luton Airport terminal will take just over 30 minutes on the fastest trains.

Graham Olver, Chief Executive Officer of Luton Rising, said: “Testing of the system is significantly advanced, but there remain several important tasks that we are working to complete with our partners, which relate mostly to complexities of the communications infrastructure and enabling works. This will also allow us more time to complete all the regulatory, operational and health and safety testing.”

“We had hoped for an announcement of opening in 2022. We are eager to open the Luton DART and will do so as soon as we are assured that passengers will get the world-class service they deserve.”

Construction work on the new light rail link had been completed last year and they were in the fit-out stage, and had expected to complete testing within six months, but there have been a number of delays in completing that phase before they can have regulatory approval to open the line.

The main contractors for the project are Volker Fitzpatrick-Kier (VFK) and Austria based Doppelmayr Cable Car. Network Rail built the new overbridge, escalators and canopies at Luton Airport Parkway station.

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14 comments
  1. Alistair twin, says:

    They seem really vague about the causes of the delay, it seems like they started testing in August 21, so presumably something has gone wrong and had to be fixed. There are reports of a derailment in the luton press but I doubt that, more likely the cables dropping off perhaps?

    I’m really bored of using that bus.

  2. MilesT says:

    I wonder if the DART installation is any longer and/or wigglier than a typical installation for that sort of system (I think the former maglev at Birmingham airport was replaced with a cable hauled transit, and I have seen similar at other airports e.g. Detroit, but those likely to be shorter/straighter/all on one level. Likely issues of cable coming off guide rollers but could create a knock on slow speed derailment.

  3. R. Knight says:

    Very very disappointimg that it appears to be only a single track.

  4. Alfie1014 says:

    The video clearly shows two tracks (or to be precise two independent single tracks).

    • Paul says:

      Cut the journey to under 4 minutes? The last 3 times I went to Luton via parkway the transfer only took about 5 or 6 minutes anyways. Seems like an improvement on something that didn’t need fixing to be honest

    • Colin says:

      Yip it’s two tracks one will be going as the other comes back down. No crossover just a pulley system.

  5. WAYNE O'CONNOR says:

    Well done, again delayed. It’s supposed to be open at autumn 2021. Probably they’ll delayed again in spring 2023

  6. Dave mac says:

    This was one of the main reasons I don’t use Luton airport. God awful bus service is like something I’d expect in a 2nd rate meditaraian island airport. Also a bonus we won’t be using diesel busses much longer.
    The other reasons were silly charges at security for a clear plastic bags and long queues…
    Saying this, Luton still has a long way to go before its anywhere as good as Gatwick. Gatwick really nailed it.

    • Alistair Twin says:

      They are just trying to stay ahead of Stansted, which has really gone to the dogs.

      I don’t mind luton nowadays, party because the thameslink is so good. but LGW will always have an edge over it, just because of volume and choice.

  7. MilesT says:

    @Paul I think the transit will be more frequent than the buses and hence less wait time, so overall much quicker, and better solutions for baggage. Starting from the core of the station also good, no need to go from train to ground. My experience (pre pandemic) is yes the journey is not long, but there can be quite a wait before it departs. And good to see the diesel buses gone (although these could be replaced with electric, the BYD/Dennis EV buses on some routes in London e.g. Victoria-Waterloo route, fitted with some luggage racking would have been perfect if run to a higher frequency rather than the current diesel bendy buses with extra luggage space that I recall.)

    @Dave mac Not sure LGW has fully “nailed it”. My experience is there can be an annoyingly long wait for the transit between train station in South to the North Terminal; it feels like they are running that link at reduced capacity (even pre-pandemic) to save costs (on aging infrastructure).

  8. Matt Sawyer says:

    They were testing it when I was at Luton three weeks back, when I foolishly assumed it was already open and wondered why people were still queuing for the bus.

    • JP says:

      Maybe I’m scarred but I always do the normal pay extra attention to the little things and fastidiously to a fault when under the gaze of the wider world.
      What you doing cleaning the shopfront for? Icelandic Pop Goddess, a bloke called Smith and their two film crews devouring every unintended slip because of our “who the Hell is this lot” rise.

      Rather a long-winded introduction sorry to a question: which disgruntled employee drew and which HR/PR boss had the humour to keep the extremely hairy cock and balls on the DART windscreen top right? As it enters the tunnel, fittingly, best doth it shew. Top right of the glass.

  9. J. Frank Mortimer says:

    OMG!!! Now the truth comes out. £4.90 one-way fare!!! We thought it would be free. That’s over £2 per kilometer, close to 10 times the average cost on the tube or DLR. That is so totally outrageous. I do hope that someone starts a competitive bus shuttle, since they intend to discontinue this to force people to use the DART. One could make a huge profit running just one bus every 10 minutes each way and charging £1 per passenger. Assuming just 20 passengers average per run, that’s still £2400 for a single 10-hour shift!!

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