Luton Airport is currently building a new light rail link, and they’ve released an updated flythrough of the construction so far, also showing the trains in their maintenance area. At the moment, the link between the airport and the nearest railway station, Luton Airport Parkway is by a shuttle bus, but a new rail link with cable hauled trains will link them next year.

When it opens, journey times will be cut to just 4 minutes.

Most of the construction work is now completed and they are in the fitting-out stage, with ventilation fans and cabling being installed in the tunnel that passes under the runway.

At the stations, platform edge doors and the escalators have now been fitted.

Scheduled to open during 2022, ongoing restrictions permitting, it will enable rail journeys between the airport and St Pancras International of just 30 minutes.

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


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  1. MilesT says:

    Not sure I would describe this as light rail, more as a people mover (and one of the longer cable hauled examples–for comparison the similar Birmingham Air link is approx 600m on the level vs DART at 2300 with change in grade)

    The contrary argument would be the heritage San Francisco cable cars (but I don’t think most people consider this light rail either).

    Still a useful development, long overdue.

  2. JP says:

    Or lengths

  3. Mark Dobson says:

    I cannot believe that any engineer is still using the funicular system for a new rail link! Whatever happened to maglev?

    • ianVisits says:

      a) It’s not a funicular

      b) Maglev, are you mad?

      c) Why can’t you believe it when the evidence seems fairly clear to me.

    • ChrisC says:

      How about they chose this method because it was the one that gave the best return on investment and was going to be simplest to maintain going forward?

      Would LTN building this as a maglev provide any extra benefits to either the airport (in terms of reduced capital and operational costs) or to passengers (via a reduced transfer time from station to airport and vice versa)?

  4. harry says:

    Mark: “Whatever happened to maglev?”

    If I remember correctly, Stanstead initially used it. Don’t know if that’s still the case though.

    • MilesT says:

      Actually, I think you mean Birmingham Airport–originally a Maglev (first in the world in 1984), replaced when it wore out with the same cable hauled system that will be used for the DART, same supplier, roughly same capacity/speed as the Maglev it replaced. Stansted has always been electric motor, rubber tyre, “fixed rail” power pickup type people mover, extended as new piers were developed.

      And just because the technology is simple (cable hauling, fixed cable I think rather than detachable as used in original San Francisco, or above ground cable car) doesn’t mean it’s not very effective and appropriate, especially where there is a significant change in level over a short distance. Also low emissions (no rubber tyre particles) and low maintenance.

      I am looking forward to a ride on it (maybe as a special trip , not for a flight)

      A faster service would need to be electric, rubber tyre or rack railway because of level change. This might cut journey time from 4 to 2 minutes, and allow greater frequency, but that would be much more expensive and probably greater volume than needed. A detachable cable cabin service (on rails rather than suspended) would be a compromise to increase frequency (but might reduce speed)

    • Betterbee says:

      Miles T: “(no rubber tyre particles)” – I think it does run on rubber tyres, which seem to be standard on Doppelmayr Cable Liner installations such as this.

  5. David Winter says:

    Very much looks like a busway track (concrete beamway) not steel wheel/steel rail.

    It’s not a cable car. They involve grip systems.

    It’s not a funicular. The two tracks look to be fully independent.

    Increase in capacity can only be realised by lengthening the trains.

    Does anyone know what the fail-safe/fail-graceful aspects of this brand of cable hauled transit are? I wonder how a breakdown (eg siezed bearing) would be dealt with?

    • ianVisits says:

      The manufacturer, the rail regulator, and the train operators will all be very well aware of how to handle safety related issues.

  6. Andrew Long says:

    Rubber-tyred and they are calling DART ‘light rail’. Hardly, it is more like guided bus, which operates on a concrete guideway (Cambridge, Dunstable, Leigh examples). In addition the DART Doppelmayr cable-operated cars running over the longish concrete guideway distance between Luton Airport Parkway & the airport, will be interesting to see how they actually perform in practice.

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