Plans for a state-of-the-art £200 million mass passenger transit (MPT) system linking London Luton Airport (LLA) with Luton Airport Parkway railway station were announced today by the airport’s owner, London Luton Airport Ltd (LLAL).
The news was a highlight at the launch of Luton’s ambitious and wide-ranging £1.5 billion inward investment programme which outlines a 20-year plan for major transformation of the town and signals how the borough will achieve strong, sustainable and balanced growth and create jobs for local people.
Construction is already well under way on the airport’s separate £110 million redevelopment plans, and together the combined investment will transform the passenger experience and enable LLA to increase its capacity by 50 per cent to 18 million passengers per year by 2020.
The MPT system will be a fully-automated, two-way, 24-hour, guided light rail people mover based on latest system technology and design innovation, and when complete will enable a quickest direct journey time between London St Pancras and the airport terminal of under 30 minutes.
LLAL has appointed Arup to design and procure the scheme, and it is anticipated that a planning application will be made in the early autumn. Work could begin in 2017 with the system ready for operation by the end of 2020.
Making the announcement at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, London, Cllr Andy Malcolm, Chair of LLAL, said: “I am delighted to confirm that the board has committed to start the procurement process to provide fast, easy access between Luton Airport Parkway and the airport terminal.
“Luton is the fastest growing airport in the UK and enjoys excellent road links to London and the North while Luton Airport Parkway also gives excellent rail connectivity to the capital and the Midlands.
“The scheme we are announcing today will provide a seamless five-minute transfer time between Parkway station and the airport terminal.
“A total journey time of less than 30 minutes from St Pancras to the airport will beat the time from Liverpool Street to Stansted by 20 minutes and better the time from Victoria to Gatwick too.”
The identified preferred 2.2km route runs between two purpose-built stations, heading out from Stirling Place where a new commercial development and multi-storey car park is also planned, alongside the mainline railway and crossing over Airport Way before passing through the airport’s existing mid-term car park and arriving at the airport’s central terminal area.
It is envisaged that fares would be included under train ticket or car parking arrangements, or available for separate purchase, as with the current bus service.
The growth of London Luton Airport is predicted to increase its economic impact by 77 per cent from £1.3 billion to £2.3 billion by 2030 and create 10,500 new jobs over the next 15 years.
In its latest budget the government confirmed that Enterprise Zone status had been granted to three linked sites surrounding LLA, at Stirling Place, Century Park and the Airport Business Park.
Cllr Malcolm added: “LLAL is committed not only to optimising the airport’s capacity to 18 million passengers per year but also to the development of the town as a whole.
“With a catchment area of 23 million people within a two-hour travel time, London Luton Airport is ready and willing to make a significant contribution to meeting the growing demand for air travel in London and the South-East.
“Combined with the prospect of four fast trains an hour which we are lobbying for, this investment in mass passenger transit will transform the experience of those travelling to the airport by rail, and will encourage more people to do so and therefore help to reduce congestion on the roads.
“It also has the potential to open up opportunities for development throughout the Enterprise Zone and signals our belief in its potential for economic and employment growth.”
Nick Barton, CEO of LLA, said: “Improving rail links is a crucial part of LLA’s development, and integral to ensure that we provide the best possible service for all our passengers.
“The creation of a mass passenger transmit link between Parkway station and the terminal is a milestone in the airport’s transformation and the first step towards creating a world-class air-rail service.”
Neil Slaven, Commercial Manager of easyJet, said: “easyJet welcomes the plan for a new direct rail link connecting Luton Airport Parkway train station with the airport. A quicker and easier connection for passengers is a key part of the transformation of the airport and will help to attract more passengers to London Luton Airport. We already encourage our passengers to travel by rail, offering them the opportunity to purchase tickets on board and we hope the number of easyJet passengers at London Luton Airport who arrive by rail will increase with the new, faster link to the airport.
“We now fly over five million passengers a year to and from London Luton as the number one airline at the airport. The redevelopment of the airport was a key factor in our commitment to double our passenger numbers over the next 10 years. We have ambitious plans for growth which will result in an even greater range of business and leisure destinations for our passengers and today’s announcement today is a really positive step towards helping us to realise those ambitions.”
The investment will be funded under LLAL’s capital programme.