The Luton Direct Air to Rail Transport (DART) project was a joint venture project between VolkerFitzpatrick and Kier (VFK). This new state-of-the-art guided mass passenger transit system links the airport terminal building to Luton Airport Parkway station and has reduced journey time to central London to 32 minutes.
The JV was tasked with undertaking construction of the Luton DART, an environmentally friendly, fully automated, double-shuttle cable-driven people mover. Scope also included a purpose-built station alongside the Midland Main Line (MML), a 1000tn offsite built Gateway Bridge crossing the A1081 and a 350m ‘cut-and-cover’ tunnel under the airport taxiway into the terminal.
The project forms part of Luton Borough Council’s £1.5 billion Luton Investment Framework to transform Luton and secure long-term economic growth benefiting local business and ensuring the local community have access to high quality employment opportunities.
The available land at Luton Airport is limited and was used in a highly efficient and sustainable manner. We were aware of the constraints and showed a proactive willingness to manage this through communication and having ongoing discussions with LLAL to resolve any issues that might arise and, more importantly, tackle before any became a risk.
For the 1000-tonne Gateway Bridge, we used BIM modelling techniques to rehearse its move into place in front of a panel of industry experts to comment before the event. The final transportation took place in a 57-hour window, saving two days on programme.
“The project has been full of engineering challenges and to move an object of this size ranks as one of the biggest … a great testimony to both the vision of the project and the technical expertise of our contractor.” Ciaran Scanlon, London Luton Airport Limited (LLAL) Programme Delivery Director
This project played a vital role in the development of the airport and the improvement of the customer experience, in peak times the DART will depart the stations every 4 minutes.
Opening in early 2023, the cable-driven system has been designed using the latest technology and innovation and can operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
His Majesty King Charles III was one of the first people to travel on the Luton DART passenger transport system, as part of his official visit to Bedfordshire in December 2022. The King spoke to several Kier team members where he took the time to understand the technology and was extremely interested in learning about some of the engineering challenges.
In partnership with the local authority, Luton Council, the Kier JV has also delivered the guidance, skills and training essential to secure a job in engineering and construction for local people. We launched a Construction Skills Hub - a £1m joint venture with Luton Borough Council to provide training opportunities for the community built on the airport site. On the project we have achieved:
- 33 apprentices employed either directly or through our subcontract workforce
- 80% training for unrepresented groups against a target of 45%
- 27 school/college work placements
- 30 local school college engagement activities (1-2-1 speed networking, careers events etc.)
- 15 work placements for unemployed people and 32 unemployed people supported into employment with local construction companies.
The electrically powered Luton DART will support 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 delivery of the Luton 2040 vision of a carbon-neutral town.