Share this post

Luton has a long history of transportation advancements, with the Luton Airport originally opening in 1938, and steady growth over the years. The Luton Airport presently serves approximately 15 million passengers annually, facilitating travel to over 150 destinations spanning Europe, Africa, and Asia. With a workforce of approximately 10,000 employees and indirect support for nearly 18,000 jobs, this site is a significant contributor to the UK's economy. As this demand for air travel increased over the years for Luton, so did the need for efficient and seamless connections between the airport and other modes of transportation.

Today the Luton DART (Direct Air-Rail Transit) meets this need by transporting passengers from the mainline railway Luton Airport Parkway to the terminal of London Luton Airport in under four minutes. Operations commenced in 2022 and significantly reduced travel time to and from central London to under 30 minutes. Additionally, it efficiently transports passengers from Luton Airport Parkway station to the airport terminal in less than four minutes.

The line replaces an older shuttle bus service, reduces road congestion, vehicle emissions, and improves journey times for travellers from London St. Pancras to the airport terminal. It involved building rail tracks, two stations, a large tunnel and a bridge. Our team of expert at Jensen Hughes Europe developed the fire strategy design and tunnel modelling for the new stations and all areas in between.

The development of the Luton DART involved the successful execution of seven key components: the construction of DART Parkway and Central Terminal stations, the creation of an eight-span viaduct measuring 310 meters in length, running alongside the existing rail line and supported by seven piers, the establishment of a 750-meter section of running slab on cut and fill, adjacent to the A1081, the implementation of a double tunnel spanning 320 meters along the designated route, and the installation of an 80-meter curved bridge weighing 1,000 tonnes. This curved bridge serves as an integral feature of the new Luton DART fast transit system.

The bridge has a steel frame and carries part of the track over a public road. There were concerns that a car fire in the road could affect the steel structure and, as a result, the steel would need applied fire protection. In order to address the concerns with the bridge, our expert team used a structural fire engineering analysis to demonstrate that the bridge’s structure had sufficient inherent fire resistance and did not need applied fire protection, therefore significantly reducing project costs.

There were additional apprehensions for the tunnel considering that a train fire could cause the tunnel to be smoke-logged and prevent train occupants from escaping. To mitigate concerns, our multidisciplinary team performed computational fluid dynamics (CFD) to demonstrate that the mechanical smoke fans to be installed along the tunnel roof could maintain a clear path for escape to the outside.

Through our structural fire engineering analyses and CFD analyses for smoke modelling, we were able to develop a safe and cost-effective solution for this transportation project and support Luton’s growing needs.

Project Details

Project Owner

London Luton Airport Limited

Project Location

Luton, UK


Tony Gee & Partners

Project Team

VolkerFitzpatrick / Kier (VFK) JV, Tony Gee & Partners


2018 - 2023

Estimated Project Cost

£290 million

Featured Experts

Henry Wilkinson

Senior Director, Fire Engineering

Manchester - England

MEng (Hons), Chartered Fire Engineer, Member

View Details

More from Jensen Hughes