Luton Airport defends cost of new shuttle service

Luton Airport has defended the cost to passengers of its new light rail transport service, amid claims it is the most expensive line in the UK.

The Dart (direct air-rail transit) will launch commercial services between Bedfordshire Airport and Luton Airport Parkway, its nearest mainline railway station, in the coming weeks.

One-way fares will cost £4.90 for the 1.3 mile journey.

At £3.77 per mile, it has been listed as Britain’s most expensive train service, surpassing the Heathrow Express, which runs between Heathrow Airport and Paddington Station.

The £290 million project to build the Dart was funded by Luton Rising, the body that owns and manages the airport on behalf of Luton City Council.

Speaking at the new Dart station built next to Luton Airport Parkway, Luton Rising chief executive Graham Oliver claimed that Dart is “like the Suez Canal”.

He continued: “It connects two important parts. Its value is in connectivity.

Here is a station prepared for the future.

“We have a bridge. We have tunnels. We have a station at the airport.

“Per mile, of course, it seems expensive, but its value is enormous.”

Oliver told the PA news agency that Luton Rising is “effectively a social enterprise” generating money to support council services and community projects.

It would make no sense for Dart’s rides to be free in the long term, as that would mean they would be “subsidized by the people of Luton”, he said.

“Our job is to support and improve the lives of the people of Luton,” he added.

The King rode the Dart on a visit to Luton in December.

Since last week, a limited number of passengers have been invited to use the service at no cost.

Full commercial operation is expected to start at the end of March.

The bus service between the airport and the train station, which costs £2.40 one way and £3.80 return, will be retired.

Mr Oliver said: “(The Dart) is more expensive than the bus, but really it’s about value and comfort.

“All the people we have spoken with and who have traveled on it are delighted that the quality of service is so much better.

“If you’re a smart shopper, if you’re coming from London, a family of four can get a return ticket for less than £50.”

Construction delays and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and inflation have been blamed for the service opening two years late and around a third over budget.


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