DART London Luton Airport; DART London Luton Airport;

Luton DART, London

Delivering a pioneering infrastructure project for Luton

The Luton DART (Direct Air-Rail Transit) is a pioneering fully-automated people mover, designed to transport travellers from the Luton Airport Parkway railway station to the terminal of London Luton Airport in well under four minutes. The new airport transfer facilitates faster journeys from over 60 locations across the rail network, and passengers travelling from London St Pancras to the London Luton Airport terminal can now do so in as little as 32 minutes, making this one of the shortest airport connections to and from central London. Providing travellers with a speedier, greener, and more efficient journey to the UK’s fifth busiest airport, the Luton DART will help radically reduce the proportion of passenger and employee trips to the airport by car, and support delivery of the airport’s sustainability targets.

Luton DART also marks a significant investment in the town’s civil infrastructure by Luton Borough Council’s airport company Luton Rising. Arup has played a key role working alongside Luton Rising on this landmark infrastructure project from the outset, assembling a large team of architects, engineers, and specialists to help meet the client’s aspiration for a world class airport experience. Our role has covered all aspects of the planning, costing, procurement, and design, including station architecture, operating systems and operational readiness.

Project Summary

4 minutes journey time

18 millionairport passengers

2newly designed stations

Arup is proud to have helped design and deliver this pioneering infrastructure project, which will provide a transformative experience for rail passengers and support the future sustainable growth of London Luton Airport
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We appointed Arup recognising that they offer a full professional service; designers, planners, engineers and technical experts. They have worked across all areas and in every phase of our project with outstanding professional commitment and have delivered what is our most exciting project yet, creating an architectural landscape within an infrastructure project and achieving this within an audacious timescale. ” Robin Porter Chief Executive Luton Borough Council

Contributing to the transformation of Luton

The DART is one of the largest infrastructure projects ever undertaken in the area and represents an ambition from Luton Rising, a business and social enterprise, to deliver positive social impact and economic growth to the local community. As the airport grows and generates a return, there is a direct benefit to the people of Luton.

It forms part of a wider development of housing, hotel and other facilities that are being built around Bartlett Square fostering community and employment. Operating 24 hours a day, DART will help boost the rail modal share for passengers accessing the airport and support Luton's vision for a carbon-neutral town by 2040.

The electric-powered system will lessen the environmental impact of journeys both to and from the airport and reduce congestion on surrounding roads. It will also provide rail passengers with a much-improved experience by offering a seamless journey covering the Thameslink and East Midlands Railway network. We have optimised the DART’s timetable to ensure a high frequency of service during the busy passenger peaks, with a reduced running pattern during quieter periods to save energy.

Luton DART energy-efficient cable-pulled system Luton DART energy-efficient cable-pulled system
The DART employs an energy-efficient cable-pulled system to lessen its environmental impact. © Simon Kennedy

© Simon Kennedy

Station design that meets passenger needs

The scheme comprises two stations, a viaduct, a signature bridge and a ‘cut-and-cover’ tunnel beneath a live taxiway. Our ambition was to create a sense of place for passengers, with intuitive and easy-to-navigate spaces. DART Parkway and Central Terminal stations are characterised by a simple, functional, and pared-back style that delivers a consistent, high quality and unified architectural experience for the passenger from start to finish of their journey. It begins at the concourse level of Luton Airport DART Parkway Station and ends with the seamless transfer of passengers at the Central Terminal Station. The accessible design includes new lifts, escalators, tactile paving, audio frequency induction loops and several help points installed across the stations.

The two stations have created a new identity for Luton Airport with their signature parasols that are repeated across the wider development. Each parasol is held by a single centrally loaded column and cantilevers across approximately 20m in width. The parasols protect passengers from the weather whilst allowing for spacious, open, and naturally lit concourses.

This task required the collaborative engagement of our architects, engineers, and experts across disciplines to formulate a design that formed a synthetic whole.

Delivering energy performance and value

Our concept design considered the likely changes to the airport’s requirements through the long life of the structural assets and made accommodation for a variety of systems to be installed in future, including airport expansion, operating more trains and additional passenger facilities.

Additional carriages can be added to the DART as passenger numbers increase, with platforms designed to accommodate longer trains and minimise the need for costly changes and disruptive construction in the future.

Both DART Parkway and Central Stations are naturally ventilated throughout the concourse and platform areas, lowering the operational carbon footprint of the stations against a mechanical approach. The transport system is powered by an efficient electric drive system which incorporates energy recovery during braking. The energy can be consumed in the vehicle (HVAC) and elsewhere in the station facilities, reducing the total energy consumption of the whole system.

Our design of the stations, with their highly reflective parasol cladding, maximises direct and indirect daylighting, and aims to improve passenger and staff wellbeing. At DART Parkway Station, the glazing to the façade has been designed to minimise solar gain whilst maintaining excellent levels of light transmittance.