Luton Airport’s decision to invest £200 million in a new light railway link – that will run from the airport to the railway station – should give it bragging rights over rival Gatwick Airport, as it will make the journey time between Luton Airport and the capital much faster than those traveling in from Gatwick.
The new link will replace the existing shuttle bus service and once constructed it’s estimated that passengers will be able to get to London St Pancras from Luton Airport in less than 30 minutes.
The bad news for the bus drivers, who’ll soon have no buses to drive, is that the air link will be automatic; in other words, driverless. However, they’ll probably find other work at the airport as it’s experiencing real growth – passenger numbers grew 17% to 12.3 million in 2015 and the airport now employs more than 8,600 staff.
Luton Airport is owned by the local council (which should have made the planning application a pretty straight forward exercise) and the council is to be applauded for making such a ballsy decision in these belt tightening times. Mind you, it has already committed to spending £110m on redeveloping its terminals, which it hopes will expand capacity to 18 million passengers a year by 2020.
Putting its local ratepayers’ money where its mouth is has helped convince EasyJet to commit to staying at the Airport too. The low cost airline has gone on record as saying that the redevelopment is a key factor in its pledge to double the size of its operations there over the next decade.
If Gatwick feels aggrieved at the news, spare a thought for rival Stansted airport, where hopes of building a faster rail connection to central London have been dampened by Network Rail, which estimated that the upgrades needed would only shave 2-5 minutes from the current 45-53 minute train journey.
Clearly, the battle between London’s airports is hotting up with the winners being the passengers. That’ll make a change.