DART – An Engineering Miracle of its age; really?

This week the Chief Executive of Luton Rising (LR) took to the national press again to extol the virtues of its “game changing” DART link between Luton Parkway station and the central terminal area at Luton Airport. We are well aware of how LR think the DART is the best thing since sliced bread, but their latest comparison has got to take the No1 spot in their fantasy land of how good the DART is.

Apparently, it is now being compared as an engineering and commercial project with the Suez Canal!

The Dart: Luton Council defends expensive ticket for new light rail dubbed UK’s most expensive line (cityam.com)

The Suez Canal was built to link the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. This allowed trade from India and the Middle East to cut sea trips by weeks, as ships would not have to round the Cape of Good Hope in Southern Africa and battle the weather in the South Atlantic Ocean.


The DART was built because Luton Borough Council (LBC) thought a free-to-the-Council bus service, which had been adequate for passenger growth to 18 million passengers per annum, now wasn’t good enough for the “discerning passengers” going forwards.  Apparently, the DART and its stations are “future proofed” and therefore great value despite LR’s auditors writing down the project by £184m. DART is also planned to be extended, in LBC/LR airport expansion plans, into the neighbouring Wigmore Valley Park where Terminal 2 will stand at further expense. That extension will involve tunnelling through the toxic landfill that sits under the park, and will mean the tunnel will then be surrounded by that same waste, and therefore subject to the real possibility of land slippage and toxic fumes.

The highly remunerated CEO also says that LR “is effectively a social enterprise”, making money to support council services and community projects. If DART services were free “they would be subsidised by the people of Luton”. “Our job is to support and enhance the lives of the people of Luton” 

Interesting comments as when it comes to the finances of LR, everything is done in secret and the people of Luton excluded.  As we have said many times, what would the £300 million construction cost of DART actually have achieved if spent in the town?  There is also no mention of the write down, which will mean that sum will be lost to the town even if DART actually does start to make a positive contribution to service budgets.

Along with the DART costs, what would the following have done for the budgets of Luton?

Bailout loans of £160 million that LBC has paid LR over the past three years to stabilise and keep LR a going concern?     

The £45 million given back by LR to the airport operator in force majeure costs after a long and costly legal battle over the effects of Covid? 

The £50 million spent by LR on its airport expansion Development Consent Order? “Our job is to support and enhance the lives of the people of Luton”.

Once again Dear Reader, you decide …….

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