Luton Airport

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MarlowDonkey

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The Guardian has a story that Luton Airport are proposing to replace the bus that runs from Luton Airport to the Parkway station by a light rail link. They claim that it would make Luton quicker to reach than Gatwick from Central London.

London Luton airport plans to park its much-maligned bus transfer service once and for all and build a £200m light rail link to the nearest railway station.

The fast-track service would make journey times between the capital and Luton airport faster than for those flying via Gatwick, the airport claimed.

The 24-hour, automated light-rail link would replace the buses currently used to transfer travellers between the station and the terminal, making the fastest complete journey from Luton airport to London St Pancras less than 30 minutes.

The 1.3-mile link will be funded by Luton borough council, which owns the airport freehold. While the station is almost adjacent to the airport perimeter, it is around 40 metres downhill from it, making a fixed rail link difficult to build.
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Luton airport is spending a further £110m on redeveloping its terminals and layout to expand capacity to 18m passengers a year by 2020.

The chief executive, Nick Barton, said: “We’re delighted Luton borough council is making the investment. It’s perfect for us: we’ve been on a journey but there’s always been that fundamental gap between the terminal and the very good train service – served by a bus, which just isn’t good enough.”

The rail link would connect to the terminal from within the railway station, one level above the platforms.

Barton said: “It’s raising the game and raising our standard. When you get to Luton Airport Parkway you will think that you’re actually at the terminal.”

EasyJet, the biggest carrier at the airport, welcomed the news, saying the redevelopment was a key factor in its pledge to double the size of its operations there over the next decade.

A planning application would be made in autumn for work to begin in 2017. While Barton cautioned that it would need to “be scrutinised more closely than a normal application” because of any perceived conflict in the council’s ownership of the airport, which is let as a long-term concession, all of the land required is already owned by the council.

He said Luton was working closely with the Department for Transport to remove barriers to rail travel to the airport, including tackling any ticketing confusion, and allowing passengers to travel between the airport and London using Oyster card or contactless payment by 2018.
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Luton would also benefit from the upgrade of Thameslink trains, as well as being served by St Pancras, Barton said.

“The whole train story is just transforming and this is the next big – but very big step – to making that journey superb.”

The news is likely to prompt further chagrin at rival London Stansted airport, where hopes of a fast rail connection to central London have been dampened by Network Rail concluding that upgrades would only shave 2-5 minutes from the current 45-53 minute train journey.

Passenger numbers grew 17% to 12.3m in 2015 at Luton, which indirectly employs more than 8,600 staff. The airport serves 123 destinations, mainly operated by low-cost and charter airlines.
 
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InTheEastMids

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Sounds good. On the rare occasions I've used the bus link, it doesn't act as a wonderful welcome to the UK. I really hope they don't charge for this either.

Personally, I hope they go all out and do something like the Sky Train that connects Düsseldorf airport to the main airport station.

I also cling to the vain hope that it won't be a continuous audio-visual torture like Birmingham. If Emirates are prepared to do that to me for a minute or two at BHX, then I shudder to think what of the multimedia assault that Ryanair could unleash on the poor passengers at Luton, but I think the CIA would be taking notes.
 

edwin_m

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Probably a rubber-tyred automated people mover or a Birmingham-style cable one rather than light rail as such. I'd guess they would start it from the north side of the station at footbridge level, which would gain a bit of height and shorten the run but also give the best possible interchange to the trains.
 

Busaholic

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Would monorail not be the best solution? We seem to run scared of the idea in this country, even driverless trains have to have a pretend driver!
 

jopsuk

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monorail has no advantages over conventional rail automated metro (eg DLR?)
 

Busaholic

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monorail has no advantages over conventional rail automated metro (eg DLR?)

I'm only going on the reported lack of space - I've not used Luton Airport since 1973, so personal knowledge of the site non-existent.
 

Bletchleyite

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Would monorail not be the best solution? We seem to run scared of the idea in this country, even driverless trains have to have a pretend driver!

DLR doesn't have a driver - they are essentially GOO (guard only operation) :)

(Though the guard can drive in emergency)
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
TBH I think it's an almighty waste of money - a good quality bus service is perfectly adequate and handles the hill well. They'd do well to stop the faff of charging for it, make it more frequent and add the second carriageway under the taxiway bridge as dedicated bus lanes (as I believe is indeed planned for quite soon).
 

jopsuk

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The best thing that could be done would be to extend the shuttle to Stevenage...
 

Bald Rick

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TBH I think it's an almighty waste of money - a good quality bus service is perfectly adequate and handles the hill well. They'd do well to stop the faff of charging for it, make it more frequent and add the second carriageway under the taxiway bridge as dedicated bus lanes (as I believe is indeed planned for quite soon).

I couldn't disagree more. It is an almighty pfaff to get from platform to bus and vice versa, the wait for the bus to go feels like an age even though it's rarely more than 9 minutes, and the bus routinely gets stuck in the traffic on the approach to the airport, particularly early on Summer mornings. I once took 45 minutes to get from the station junction on the dual carriageway to the terminal.

A link like this will make the station feel part of the terminal. AIUI it will be a direct access off the east side of the station footbridge. The experienced journey time from platform to terminal will fall from approx 20 minutes to about 5. Which makes the experienced journey time from Central London to terminal by Thameslink less than 40 minutes.

With that level of improvement, and compared to competitor airports, I wouldn't be surprised if rail use to the airport doubles within 5 years of it opening.

This is great example of an airport investing significant cash in the surface access transport system to improve passengers' experience of the airport and thus making the airport more attractive. Other airports should take note.
 

Old Yard Dog

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I agree. The traffic on the airport approach road can be horrendous. A fixed link of some sort away from the road is desperately needed.
 

pitdiver

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Another issue with the bus service is it suffers considerably in the event of bad weather. The road under the bridge is prone to flooding and in the event of snow access to the airport by road is nigh on impossible. I agree it's all good news for the airport and Luton in general but it's a shame Luton Stn itself remains in a sorry state.
 

Busaholic

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DLR doesn't have a driver - they are essentially GOO (guard only operation) :)

(Though the guard can drive in emergency)
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
TBH I think it's an almighty waste of money - a good quality bus service is perfectly adequate and handles the hill well. They'd do well to stop the faff of charging for it, make it more frequent and add the second carriageway under the taxiway bridge as dedicated bus lanes (as I believe is indeed planned for quite soon).

I've probably been on the DLR only about twenty times, that's since the first day of service which I attended. On three occasions, the train was being driven by the guard. The very first time was on the second day of DLR service, a Monday, when the sweating and nervous guard had to drive from Bow Road to Stratford, at an average speed of about 5 mph, and I had to vacate my front seat to allow it! The other occasions, offpeak, I believe the guards were 'keeping their hand in'. The operation I propose would have no on-board staff.
 

jon0844

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The photo I saw had a metro service from Dubai used, with palm trees and other stuff photoshopped out.

Sent from my EVA-L09 using Tapatalk
 

gsnedders

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It sounds from things before that one of the options considered was a heavy rail link—anyone know if this was a branch (à la Stansted) or a wholesale diversion of the MML? I'd be curious as to the comparative cost of a wholesale diversion of the MML to call directly at the airport (though obviously one would lose the "Parkway" part!), given it seems like that would be the best solution for airport connectivity.
 

Bald Rick

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It sounds from things before that one of the options considered was a heavy rail link—anyone know if this was a branch (à la Stansted) or a wholesale diversion of the MML? I'd be curious as to the comparative cost of a wholesale diversion of the MML to call directly at the airport (though obviously one would lose the "Parkway" part!), given it seems like that would be the best solution for airport connectivity.

It wasn't given any serious consideration. For a diversion to get anywhere near the terminal building, and to retain existing line speeds, it would need several km of tunnelling, including a fully underground 4 track station. Wouldn't be any change from a billion at least.
 

Philip Phlopp

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It wasn't given any serious consideration. For a diversion to get anywhere near the terminal building, and to retain existing line speeds, it would need several km of tunnelling, including a fully underground 4 track station. Wouldn't be any change from a billion at least.

Edinburgh Airport Rail Link was killed in 2007 when the cost was sitting at £500 million. It only really needed tunnelling under the runway and apron, and linespeed wasn't such an issue.

I'd think £1bn would be a good starting figure for Luton Airport deviation.
 

jopsuk

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It wasn't given any serious consideration. For a diversion to get anywhere near the terminal building, and to retain existing line speeds, it would need several km of tunnelling, including a fully underground 4 track station. Wouldn't be any change from a billion at least.

Not that I'm going to dispute you're estimate of the cost, but surely any deviation would only need to be two-track? Leave the EMT express services on the current alignment but create a deviation just for Thameslink, changing of course stopping patterns to suit
 

edwin_m

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Not that I'm going to dispute you're estimate of the cost, but surely any deviation would only need to be two-track? Leave the EMT express services on the current alignment but create a deviation just for Thameslink, changing of course stopping patterns to suit

Luton Airport provides a useful range of flights for the East Midlands so they would wish to retain EMT services under whatever arrangement is chosen. Also, the MML runs as a two-track railway at quieter times to allow engineering access, so from time to time all the trains will be on the fast lines.
 

al green

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I crawled all over the Luton council and Luton airport websites but could find nothing concrete about this proposal, eg a map of the route, just lots of PR guff. I think it only make sense if the transit is extended to Luton Interchange so that airport pax can use Luton or LAP stations. Also would provide fast access to town centre.

The airport wants to have 4tph fast EMT calling at LAP ie every 15 mins. Not going to happen. There are only 5tph EMT, currently 1tph at Luton and 1tph at LAP. To have 4tph at LAP and retain the 1tph at Luton would mean every EMT stopping at a Luton station, increasing London to Leicester, etc journey times by 5 mins. Can't see that going down well in the East Midlands.
 

LeeLivery

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I crawled all over the Luton council and Luton airport websites but could find nothing concrete about this proposal, eg a map of the route, just lots of PR guff. I think it only make sense if the transit is extended to Luton Interchange so that airport pax can use Luton or LAP stations. Also would provide fast access to town centre.

The airport wants to have 4tph fast EMT calling at LAP ie every 15 mins. Not going to happen. There are only 5tph EMT, currently 1tph at Luton and 1tph at LAP. To have 4tph at LAP and retain the 1tph at Luton would mean every EMT stopping at a Luton station, increasing London to Leicester, etc journey times by 5 mins. Can't see that going down well in the East Midlands.

With electrification we will see a totally new timetable. At least 6tph [future operator of EMT] services will run, though I think its a mistake Corby won't be Thameslink, LAP could have 2 Corby, 1 Nottingham and 1 Sheffield every hour without much problem. Whether they'd be every 15 mins exactly is yet to be seen. However, any time increase would be cancelled out by the acceleration and line speed upgrades.
 

edwin_m

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With electrification we will see a totally new timetable. At least 6tph [future operator of EMT] services will run, though I think its a mistake Corby won't be Thameslink, LAP could have 2 Corby, 1 Nottingham and 1 Sheffield every hour without much problem. Whether they'd be every 15 mins exactly is yet to be seen. However, any time increase would be cancelled out by the acceleration and line speed upgrades.

Even better if the EMT successor served the Parkway only, with tickets to the Town station allowing a doubleback on Thameslink.
 

adrock1976

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With the opening sentence in the opening post mentioning 30 minutes between Luton and London, making it faster than from Gatwick, I have noticed that the 30 minutes is specified to St Pancras.

I don't know what reference point in Central London has been used for the Gatwick comparison, but I would hope it would also be St Pancras so as to make it a fair comparison.

Better still (this is my own opinion), it would really be helpful if the Central London reference point for public transport journeys could be St Pauls in the future. After all, I believe the AA (Automobile Association) use the former GPO building at St Pauls as the reference point for road distances when the generic term "London" is input to calculate routes. Also, St Pauls is in the true City of London too.

Probably a rubber-tyred automated people mover or a Birmingham-style cable one rather than light rail as such. I'd guess they would start it from the north side of the station at footbridge level, which would gain a bit of height and shorten the run but also give the best possible interchange to the trains.


I can remember when Birmingham International Airport had the maglev link from the original terminal building to International Station, which I believe is the present day cable operation.
 
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