; ;

DART London Luton Airport, London

Can a driverless system really speed up passenger transfer times?

Arup is currently working on the London Luton Airport Ltd (LLAL) DART (Direct Air to Rail Transit) system (a mass passenger automated people mover) which will link passengers from the Luton Airport Parkway rail station direct to the airport terminal in the space of 3 minutes. Arup has helped LLAL gain planning permission for the new scheme and has delivered the concept, the overall scheme design, (planning) and construction procurement for the design and the build program.

Speeding up journey times 

Work is underway to upgrade London Luton Airport’s transport links from Luton Airport Parkway rail station to the airport terminal, a distance of just 2km away. Currently passengers are served by a shuttle bus link taking at least 10 minutes to reach the airport.  The airport’s owner, London Luton Airport Ltd (LLAL), is planning to invest £200million in a fully automated and driverless ‘Direct Air to Rail Transit’ (DART) system to relieve the shuttle bus service. Once in operation, the Luton DART will be capable of operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week and will help provide a seamless journey and reduce travelling time.

Project Summary


15m passengers use the airport per year

3minutejourney time

£200minvestment to improve journeys

The project is due for completion in 2021

Passengers will alight from the current train station platforms and travel up into the new dedicated DART station. With two trains operating the 3-minute journey, passengers will not have to wait more than 4 minutes for a train.

In order to make the journey significantly quicker for passengers while offering them excellent comfort during the trip, London Luton Airport Limited is to invest in a new transport link between the rail station Luton Airport Parkway and the airport. (Animation courtesy of Doppelmayr Cable Car and LLAL.)

Increasing passenger numbers

As the UK’s fifth largest airport serving upwards of 15 million passengers per year, London Luton Airport is showing one the greatest passenger growth figures year on year across UK airports. It offers flights to over 130 destinations and is continuing to expand its route network as part of its current transformation project. The transformation, the biggest single investment in the airports history will help better meet their forecast of serving 18 million passengers per annum.


Got it covered

Arup has been a long standing Technical Advisor to the airport covering, planning and transport planning and as a trusted partner was asked to be the Designer for the DART. Arup has helped LLAL gain planning permission for the new scheme (which was granted in June 2017) and has also developed the overall scheme design, procurement for the design and the build program.  The scheme comprises two stations, a viaduct, a signature bridge and a ‘cut-and-cover’ tunnel beneath a live taxiway. In parallel to this Arup is also the key engineer developing their earthworks strategy to support future plans. We have mobilised large multidisciplinary teams to cover all aspects of the planning, costing and design, including station’s architecture and railway systems.

London Luton Airport is experiencing unparalleled success, with a 50 per cent increase in passenger numbers since 2014 ” Cllr Andy Malcolm Chair of LLAL and Luton Council’s Portfolio Holder for finance

Encouraging growth and public transport offering

The Luton DART will support ongoing growth to 18 million passengers per year by 2021, and make sure the passenger experience we provide is significantly enhanced. This investment will encourage and transform the experience of those travelling to the airport by rail, thereby helping to reduce congestion on the roads, and confirms our confidence in Luton’s potential for economic and employment growth.

The journey time from St Pancras of less than 30 minutes will beat Liverpool Street to Stansted by 20 minutes and will be faster than Victoria to Gatwick too.