Hertfordshire commuters to suffer under Luton Airport Expansion Plans

Latest figures reveal that 15.7% of airport passengers use rail services via Luton Airport Parkway Station.  This means 2,747,500 journeys by train.  Luton Council’s aim is to increase this total to 34%, which is the figure for rail usage at Gatwick.  Using the Council’s true expansion goal of 38 million passengers, this would mean just under 13 million airport passengers would use rail, which is an increase of over 10 million rail journeys, resulting in 11 million extra passengers on trains that are already full for commuters by the time the trains have arrived at Harpenden and St Albans.

As stated above, the true expansion goal is 38 million passengers, but a lower figure is also used in promotion documentation about airport expansion.  This figure is 32 million.  Using 32 million as our figure, rail usage would still increase to 11 million rail journeys. 

Luton Council and its airport company LLAL had lobbied hard to increase nonstop trains from St Pancras from 1 per hour to 4 per hour – using brand new spacious intercity trains. However, this was rejected by regulators.  Instead 1 additional train per hour will stop on a new service to Corby using 20-year-old second-hand commuter stock.  Putting on a brave face, the Council has glossed over its bitter disappointment, as there are now doubts about how popular this service will be, given that very few passengers are using the existing nonstop train service now.   

The fact is, these nonstop trains will leave from the high level platforms at St Pancras while 6 slightly slower Thameslink trains will leave from the low level platforms every hour meaning it will often be quicker and more convenient to catch a more frequent slower train that stops as little as twice, than wait for a nonstop train in a completely different part of the station. 

Also, the slower Thameslink trains call directly at over 50 stations on routes to Brighton, Sutton, Sevenoaks and Rainham, while the fast service only calls at St Pancras thus further reducing its appeal.   Farringdon is also set to become a major gateway interchange when Crossrail opens, which will only be served by the existing Thameslink service. 

This is just the latest example of how LLAL and Luton Council (with its don’t care attitude to other communities) only thinks about itself and the profits it hopes to make – while letting others suffer. Those pursuing expansion plans in the name of profit risk leaving the Council with a mountain of debt it can’t pay off

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