London Luton Airport to open Direct Air-Rail Transit line

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The Luton Direct Air-Rail Transit (DART) line is expected to begin carrying its first passengers on March 10, 2023.

The Luton DART is a new automated people mover (APM) connecting London Luton Airport (LLA) and the mainline railway at Luton Airport Parkway in just over three minutes. It is intended to support sustainable travel to LLA, connecting to more than 60 stations across the rail network, and replacing the existing bus transfer service once fully open. The journey from London St Pancras International to the LLA terminal will take 32 minutes on the Luton Airport Express, connected by East Midlands Railway (twice-hourly, non-stop service), and around 40 minutes on Thameslink’s current frequent services.

Over a three-week period, plans are being made to make the service available on a restricted timetable for rail passengers traveling to and from Luton Airport Parkway Station and LLA. The company will also be seeking passenger feedback during this time. It is then expected that the Luton DART will fully open for commercial operations around the end of March 2023, with a specific date to be announced on or around March 13.

The Luton DART service was experienced by His Majesty the King on his visit to Luton on December 6, 2022. Cable-drawn and electrically powered, the Luton DART will increase the rail modal share for passengers accessing the airport and support the delivery of Luton’s 2040 vision for a carbon-neutral town.

The project was also intended to improve London Luton Airport’s competitive position within the London aviation system, helping to safeguard 10,000 jobs at the airport and another 16,000 in the local and regional supply chains. During construction, it has supported around 500 jobs across a range of disciplines; created 80 full-time posts for local apprentices, graduates and other new entrants; and provided a construction skills training hub for 720 people, of whom over 40% were drawn from traditionally under-represented groups.

Counsellor Hazel Simmons, leader of Luton council, said, “The Luton DART is one of the biggest infrastructure projects ever undertaken in Luton and promises to put our town and our airport firmly on the map for all the right reasons. Electrically powered, energy-efficient and future-proofed to support the sustainable growth of the airport, it is a vital sign of our commitment to encourage more passengers to take the train rather than individual car journeys to and from our airport.”

Graham Olver, CEO of Luton Rising, said, “Our company’s purpose and responsibility is to support economic and employment growth, deliver a positive social impact and act in an environmentally responsible way. Luton Council owns the airport for community benefit and the Luton DART helps ensure a bright future for people in Luton and nearby communities who depend on and benefit from its success.”

Upgraded security
Alongside this APM development, the airport has also selected Leidos to update the technology for its security checkpoints. As the principal contractor, Leidos will manage all subcontractors and associated consultants working on the project. This includes oversight of building modifications to create two central image processing rooms. The company will also install its security systems and other third-party security solutions at the checkpoints.

Under the agreement, Leidos will deploy 12 of its integrated ClearScan cabin baggage scanners and ProPassage automated tray return systems. ClearScan is a computed tomography (CT) scanner with advanced explosive detection algorithms. This capability eliminates the need to remove electronics and approved liquids from carry-on baggage. The large, automated ProPassage trays reduce the number of trays needed per passenger in the divest area and help prevent sweep-outs, a common issue with light items in shallow trays. The combination of these two technologies will enable faster processing of passengers through the checkpoint.

Leidos will also deploy its open-architecture software platform Mosaic. This cyber-secure solution integrates all security components into a single management system and is intended to provide the airport with actionable business intelligence across the entire security screening operation. Work on the project has begun, with the first lanes expected to open to the public in the fourth quarter of 2023.

Brad Buswell, senior vice president and operations manager at Leidos, said, “This is an exciting opportunity for our team, and we look forward to supporting these important initiatives at London Luton Airport. By focusing on end-to-end solutions versus individual systems, we will deliver a holistic security management solution, which can scale with the airport’s future needs.”

Chris Jones, head of security at London Luton Airport, said, “When we evaluated solutions that would provide the highest level of security while keeping a simple, friendly passenger journey and experience at London Luton Airport, Leidos was the ideal choice. We look forward to realizing the benefits of these new technologies.”

To read more about the major developments from London Luton Airport, click here.

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