We have been keeping a close eye on the Dart (Direct Air-Rail Transit) funded by Luton Rising (LR) with money borrowed from Luton Borough Council (LBC).
The cable hauled trains with twin tracks is costing over £270 million for just a 1.4 mile journey.
Due to the usual practice of LBC of denying any Freedom of Information requests on the financial aspects of DART on commercially sensitive grounds, there is no way of knowing just exactly what the final figure is/will be for the project. The DART will replace a service that is funded by Thameslink and costs the Council and its Luton Rising nothing in operating costs.
In February 2021, LR published the following tender document for the operation of DART : https://bidstats.uk/tenders/2021/W07/745275529
Last month we then found the following job announcement, https://www.london-luton.co.uk/corporate/working-at-lla/vacancies/tsddart
Now who would have thought that the airport operator who decided not to proceed with DART under their own Project Curium airport Development Plans, yet who directly benefits from it, and has not paid a penny piece in construction, now gets to earn £9 million over the six year contract for operating it?!!!!
The current tariff for the bus link is £2.40 one way, £3.80 return.
We are now going to change our usual way of presenting information to you Dear Reader, and follow LR and make an assumption that passengers predominantly book round trips.
To recoup the £1.5 million per annum to the airport operator over the life of the contract would therefore require circa 400,000 return journeys.
400,000 return trips before you even get to those covering maintenance costs.
400,000 return trips before you even dent the repayments on the project.
There is however another question that comes to our minds, why did LR need to put out a tender to operate the DART in the first place?
Could they not have just run the operation themselves, and therefore keep costs down and free up income for LBC and the dividend for local services?
The LR officers at the current round of consultations have expressed the wish to grow LR activities, so why not running DART?
Or is this decision yet another in the long line of, quite frankly murky, deals that LR has entered into with the airport operator over the years?
As ever that question will never be answered, as “it is all commercially sensitive” you know!