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Luton airport Dart rail shuttle finally set to open – at a price

Luton airport Dart rail shuttle finally set to open – at a price

For decades, passengers transferring between Luton airport and the nearest rail station have had to endure slow and unreliable bus services, which all too often become entangled with traffic approaching the Bedfordshire airport.

A promised Direct Air-Rail Transit (Dart) was due to open in 2021, connecting the terminal with Luton Airport Parkway rail station. But the Covid pandemic and other problems led to repeated delays with the project, while the cost ballooned and is now approaching £300m.

Some passengers will be finally able to benefit from the “automated people mover” from Friday 10 March – when the 1.3-mile cable-car system will open for public use between 2 and 7pm.

Officials hope the full system will be running by the end of March, which would enable it to meet demand from holidaymakers on Easter breaks.

Departures will be dependent on demand, but as frequent as every four minutes. In addition, the cramped and awkward interchange at Luton Airport Parkway will be replaced by a spacious new entrance hall and easier links to all four station platforms.

Councillor Javeria Hussain, who is Chair of Luton Rising, the council-owned airport enterprise, told The Independent Travel Podcast: “It is a world-class passenger experience. Please use it: it is an aviation game-changer. Sustainabiility is at its heart.”

The aim is to increase the proportion of Luton’s passengers who use public transport to reach the airport from 29 per cent to 40 per cent. The other major London airports – Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted – each have rail stations running direct to the terminals.

A newly branded Luton Airport Express train from London St Pancras will run nonstop every half-hour with a journey time of just 22 minutes.

Allowing time to pass through two ticket gates and reach the Dart platform, as well as waiting and travelling time on the shuttle and two minutes to walk to the departures area, the overall time from leaving central London to the security search entrance should be around 35 minutes.

Each shuttle was manufactured in Austria – home of the Doppelmayr Cable Car company, which built the system. Each can carry up to a maximum of 170 passengers, with seats for 34 and two disabled passenger bays.

The Dart journey involves a climb of 150 feet between the station and the airport, with the driverless shuttle running at…

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