Planes, trains and automobiles

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Left: London Luton Airport is upgrading its approach road system as part of a US$145m redevelopment project

Demand for air travel across the UK is at record levels. Once a decision is made on a new runway in southeast England it will take more than a decade to become a reality, which is why Sir Howard Davies made clear in the Airport Commission’s report that it is “imperative” airports other than Gatwick and Heathrow fulfill their potential to grow domestic and international connectivity in the near-term.

To achieve that, airports need to grow capacity and make the passenger experience simple and fast, but equally as important is how people get to the airport.

Connectivity should not be limited to the number of destinations an airport serves. A passenger’s journey begins as soon as they leave their home and, whether they travel by car or train, their journey is an important part of their overall experience. It can also have a significant impact on their decision to travel from an airport again, making it all the more important to get connectivity right.

Transport connectivity can also be a limiting factor to increasing airport capacity overall. We know that as part of our £110m (US$145m) redevelopment at London Luton Airport (LLA) we have to get this right as we increase annual capacity by 50% from 12 million to 18 million by 2020.

Train operations

To give an example, the lack of overnight rail services to LLA excluded 2-3 million passengers a year from considering rail as a viable means of getting to and from the airport. Given that a significant proportion of our passengers travel to the airport by train, this was a large segment of people who found it harder to travel to LLA than it needed to be.

This is why working closely with train operators and the Department for Transport (DfT) is crucial to our growth. For the first time, since December 2015, we now have services operating through the night, with at least two trains per hour. We have also been working with Transport for London (TfL) to make sure LLA is added to the Oyster network, something which we expect to happen this year to help ensure smooth connections for passengers.

Another important consideration for any airport is engagement with stakeholders around transport-related projects. The structure of the UK rail industry is complicated, and any decision often requires the input of multiple stakeholders ranging from the DfT, Transport for London (TfL), HM Treasury, Network Rail and local councils. LLA is currently working with various partners to ensure we deliver fast and frequent ‘airport express’ style services from the capital, and longer-term improvements to the link between Luton Airport Parkway and the terminal building, all of which involves coordinating with a range of stakeholders and ensuring their support.

Right: Artist’s impression of the new parking facilities outside LLA’s terminal

Road improvements

That’s not to forget the importance of road links. Many passengers still travel by car and unexpected delays can be more common for road users than rail users.

Major improvements to Junction 10a of the M1 have already been completed, providing seamless access from the motorway to the airport approach road, which will, in turn, be upgraded to a dual carriageway as part of our £110m (US$145m) transformation program. Again, this has involved close consultation with local and national stakeholders to ensure that the works benefit as many people as possible.

At a time when passengers have more choice than ever before when choosing where they fly from, airports cannot afford to forget about transport links. The holiday or business trip begins when people leave home – the experience you offer your passengers depends on the ease of getting to the airport as much as the ease of their journey through it.

About the author

Nick Barton has been CEO of London Luton Airport since October 2014. He is a Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and has built his career planning, developing and managing investment in commercial and transport infrastructure projects throughout the UK. Barton is also an experienced airport manager having held a number of directorships within airport operator BAA, culminating in holding the post of managing director at London Stansted Airport and Aberdeen Airport in Scotland.

Intermodal transport

Don’t miss the March issue of Passenger Terminal World where we’ll be exploring the challenges and opportunities for airports looking to expand their intermodal transport facilities.

February 3, 2016

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Kirstie joined the team in early 2017 and brings writing, communications and client experience with her. Now an assistant editor, she produces content for our magazines and websites. Away from the office, you will find her blogging on her lifestyle website or searching the internet for photos of sausage dogs.

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