VolkerFitzpatrick and Kier JV (VFK) celebrate the launch of the Luton DART

VFK, a Joint Venture between VolkerFitzpatrick and Kier is celebrating the full launch of the Luton DART, a fully automated and electrically powered people mover which connects Luton Airport Parkway station with London Luton Airport terminal. The Luton DART (Direct Air-Rail Transit), which launched its 24-hour timetable this week, replaces the previous bus service and speeds passengers along the route in under four minutes.

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The project was delivered by VFK for Luton Rising. The construction took place over four years in several phases, including the construction of the new Luton DART Parkway station, as well as a dedicated central terminal station.

The cable-driven system designed by Doppelmayr Cable Car uses the latest technology and innovation to transport passengers from the station to the terminal, operating seven days a week.

Other key elements of the project included a 310m viaduct running next to the existing rail line, the 750m gateway bridge which was constructed off-line and moved over the existing A1081 New Airport Way, and a 320m double-tunnel which required flexible formwork to achieve its curved geometry.

Striking architectural elements have also been incorporated into the design of the Luton DART, including iconic coloured canopies at both DART stations, and the installation of an active-LED system which illuminates the gateway bridge from below.

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Chris Evans, managing director of VolkerFitzpatrick strategic projects, commented “This exciting project has seen us work to utilise a combination of our expertise in highways, airports and rail infrastructure. By working safely and collaboratively to an exceptionally high standard, we are proud that the Luton DART will not only benefit airport passengers but also the people and businesses of Luton for years to come.”

Ross MacKenzie, managing director of Kier Infrastructure, said “We’re proud to have delivered this landmark project alongside our joint venture partners, on behalf of Luton Rising. The work that our team has completed will transform the passenger experience, offering a faster and more convenient transfer service while improving accessibility and helping to support the future sustainable growth of London Luton Airport.”

Luton Rising CEO Graham Olver commented “The Luton DART is a vital investment that signals our commitment to the ongoing success of the airport for the benefit of our passengers, airlines and the people of Luton. Everything that we do is aimed not only at supporting economic and employment growth but generating positive outcomes for the community and acting in an environmentally responsible way.”

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The Luton DART project has supported the economic development of the local area by creating over 500 construction jobs and training 720 local people, of whom 40% were drawn from traditionally under-represented groups.

In December 2021, His Majesty, King Charles III paid a visit to the Luton DART as part of a wider visit to Luton. The King was one of the first people to travel on the system and made a special effort to speak with some of the many apprentices who have worked on the Luton DART project.

The electrically powered Luton DART also supports the future sustainable growth of London Luton Airport, by reducing the environmental impact of journeys to and from the airport and congestion on surrounding roads. In so doing, it will increase the rail modal share for passengers accessing the airport and support the Luton 2040 Vision for a carbon-neutral town.