One particularly frustrating aspect of flying from Luton Airport is the fact that anyone arriving by train must get on a connecting shuttle bus to the terminal building.
Even worse, the shuttle bus isn’t free unless your train ticket is to ‘Luton Airport’. Anyone with a ticket to ‘Luton Parkway Station’ needs to pay an additional £2.40 one-way.
Council-owned Luton Rising, which owns the airport, finally realised this was a problem. In 2016 it announced it was building an automated people-mover to shuttle passengers from the train station to the terminal. Called Luton DART (Direct Air-Rail Transit), it was supposed to open in 2021.
That didn’t happen, of course. Finally, however, we have a date.
(King Charles got an early ride when he visited back in December.)
DART will have a soft opening on Friday 10th March.
By ‘soft opening’, we mean that the system will be running for around four hours per day. The exact hours have not been announced.
During these hours, anyone with a ticket for the shuttle bus between the railway station and the airport will be encouraged to use DART at no extra cost.
This trial phase is expected to last for around three weeks, with the full opening planned for late March. The bus alternative will be removed at this point.
DART will cost £4.90 each way, which is good going for a three minute, 1.5 mile, ride. It will be free for anyone who holds a concessionary bus pass. Residents of Luton will able to travel for half price but will need to apply for tickets in advance.
If you buy a railway ticket with ‘Luton Airport’ as your final destination, it will include the cost of DART and you will not need to buy a separate ticket at Luton Airport Parkway railway station.
The quickest journey time between London St Pancras International and the airport terminal will be 32 minutes via East Midlands Railway on the twice-hourly non-stop service to Luton Airport Parkway. It will be around 40 minutes via the stopping Thameslink trains.
We look forward to giving it a go once the full service commences in late March.
(EDIT, April 2023: Our Luton DART and Luton Airport Express review is now published, click here.)