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Chamber backs airport’s call for better rail links

Bedfordshire Chamber of Commerce has joined low-cost airline easyJet and several prominent business organisations to support the requirement to introduce four fast trains per hour from central London to Luton Airport Parkway as part of the upcoming East Midlands rail refranchising process. 

According to an independent economic analysis released this week, increasing the number of hourly fast trains to LAP from one to four – just through timetable change – will maximise the impact of Luton Borough Council’s £1.5 billion investment to regenerate the town.

It will also reduce traffic congestion in the area by an estimated 70,000 journeys.

Alongside Luton Borough Council’s planned £200 million light rail link between Luton Airport Parkway station and the airport terminal, the additional fast train services will make London Luton one of the best-connected London airports with journey times less than 30 minutes from central London. 

Chamber chief executive Cheryl Smart (pictured) said: “The government has been clear about the need to ensure transport infrastructure helps maintain the UK’s economic competitiveness, specifically creating better links between north and south and maximising the economic potential of the high-skill, high-employment Oxford-Cambridge corridor.

“The East Midlands franchise presents a clear opportunity to achieve both those aims whilst creating opportunities for businesses across Bedfordshire and its neighbouring counties.”

Better rail connections and increased capacity at the airport will bring about significant benefits to the local economy, generating an economic value to the three counties of £1.4 billion per year, creating 3,600 local jobs and supporting a further 6,700.

The airport forecasts its £110 million redevelopment will grow the number of passengers by 50% to 18 million a year by 2020.

Airport chief executive Nick Barton said: “Rail infrastructure upgrades are needed to ensure that this capacity can be efficiently and sustainably used.

"The introduction of Express type services has clear benefits to people all along the line from north to south as well as generating significant revenue benefits for the rail industry.

“The East Midlands refranchising is a huge opportunity to create an integrated end-to-end transport hub for the benefit of the UK and Three Counties region in particular.

“Luton is at the intersection of two strategically important economic corridors from north to south along with Midland Mainline, and from east to west between the high employment, high skill Oxford-Cambridge corridor.

"There is a clear economic and social benefit to improving connectivity in the region.”

easyJet’s UK country director Sophie Dekkers said: “Despite London Luton’s strategic importance for the UK, it has the lowest share of passengers using public transport of the London airports and lacks the Express service that other London airports and their passengers benefit from.

“Simply stopping more of the fast trains that already pass through the station will provide a significant benefit to passengers from London as well as passengers in the East Midlands at the other end of the line.” 

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