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London Luton Airport: delivering a future-proof airport

Luton Rising

4 min read Partner content

The future for London Luton Airport is bright. As part of our plans to expand the airport, we intend to deliver a forward-looking airport in the endeavour of improving the lives of people in Luton and neighbouring communities

The proof is in the pudding – in March 2023 we launched Luton DART (Direct Air-Rail Transit), helping to enhance passenger experience. This innovative system provides a low carbon public transport alternative for passengers – it replaces the shuttle buses from Luton Airport Parkway train station and has the capacity to carry up to 2,750 people per hour, taking about four minutes to take passengers from the train station to the airport. Furthermore, it means that people can travel from central London to the airport in just 32 minutes with trains from London St Pancras.

The construction phase of the DART supported around 500 additional jobs in Luton across a range of disciplines, with 80 full-time posts created for local apprentices, graduates and other new entrants. It also provided a construction skills training hub for 720 people, of whom over 40% were drawn from traditionally under-represented groups. In the long-term, the DART has created and sustains 77 new full-time jobs across various disciplines.

The DART was introduced to make travelling to and from the airport more convenient and reduce carbon emissions associated with the airport by encouraging more people to travel by public transport. To evidence our success here, less than 9 months after opening, the DART welcomed its two millionth passenger.

The plans for DART don’t stop there. We are also investigating securing a renewable energy supply for the electric-powered transit system and have future-proofed plans to extend the whole system should our plans to expand London Luton Airport get the go-ahead.

Our DCO application to expand the airport would, if approved, increase the current permitted cap of 19 million passengers per annum to 32 million. On top of the 10,900 people already directly employed by the airport, the DCO approval would create an additional 4,400 jobs in Luton alone and support an additional 6,100 new jobs across the Three Counties – all of which will provide incomes for years to come. But this isn’t just about renewable energy and sustainable growth, our airport is also about social impact.

This is why our expansion plans have been developed in consultation and collaboration with the local community and necessary steps are being taken to expand the airport sustainably.

Our Green Controlled Growth (GCG) framework – a first-of-its-kind proposal for sustainable expansion - has been developed to ensure that the airport and its ground operations are fit for what the future of aviation requires. The framework places independently-monitored, legally-binding limits on growth. If any thresholds were to be breached, applying to the carbon emissions from ground operations, air quality, noise from aircraft and the way people travel to and from the airport, growth would have to stop.

To minimise carbon emissions from the airport, a combination of adaptations to ground operations, road traffic, and aviation are also being put in place. Our proposals for expansion include the provision of electric vehicle charging points and blueprints to generate our own clean energy on-site by adding solar panels to the second terminal and new car parking roofs.

Creating our own energy on-site is a great example of how our plans for sustainable expansion will set the airport up for the future. Similarly, we’re preparing London Luton Airport to be ready to store sustainable aviation fuel for aircraft, as well as ensuring the airport can be ready to facilitate the future introduction of electric aircraft.

We are also working to improve bus and coach facilities within the airport to minimise the number of vehicles used around the airport and we will continue to work with operators to facilitate improved services.

If our bid to expand the airport is approved, it will help us build on our position as the owner of the most socially impactful airport in the country. Through ownership of the airport, Luton Rising has provided more than £300million to local communities since 1998, supplemented by £180million for vital voluntary, community and charitable organisations.

Through expansion, up to an additional £13million per year will be raised for our community investment program - a committed and additional £1 to local communities for every passenger above the currently permitted cap travelling through the airport. This will ensure a positive legacy of the airport for local communities that will continue to be delivered long into the future.

This all plays into our plans to ensure London Luton Airport is ready to grow sustainably while benefitting local people in Luton and across the Three Counties, as well as improving our passenger experience. This is what our DCO bid has at its core – a desire to improve lives and deliver a future-proof airport. What has already been achieved with Luton DART is evidence of what is possible and further instils our belief that it’s an exciting time for London Luton Airport.  

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