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Luton Dart: ‘the most expensive train in Britain’ opens for business

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Seven years in the making, Luton airport’s long-anticipated light rail link finally opens to passengers next week – a swift connection that has, somewhat unfairly, been billed as the most expensive train in Britain.As airport bosses promised, the gleaming new £290m Dart shuttle, accessed straight out of the adjacent Luton Parkway rail station, is a significant upgrade on the existing bus journey up the A1081, bringing the airport terminal to around a half-hour journey from central London on the fastest trains.But at £4.90 for the 1,999 metre trip, the Luton Dart is pricey even by the standards of British rail fares (which rise by 5.9% this weekend).

It appears to have ousted the notorious Heathrow Express transfer service as the most expensive by distance, at about £3.95 a mile.An actual flight from Luton to Palma this month on easyJet, at £56 return, comes in at roughly a tenth of the Dart’s price a mile.Even the Orient Express train from London to Venice – sleeping in a private cabin with steward service and sumptuous dining and fine wine included for the £4,500 ticket – only works out roughly double the price on mileage.So are they making a killing on the Luton Dart?

Graham Olver, the chief executive of Luton Rising, the council-owned company that runs the airport, argues not. “If you’re savvy, it’s £47.50 return for a family from central London.

Blue badges holders, pensioners and airport workers go free.”Olver urged a focus not on the cost but the value of the scheme: “We’re a massive social enterprise with a £2bn asset.”According to East Midlands Railway, some advance tickets on the Luton Airport Express from London St Pancras, and including the Dart shuttle, will cost as little as £47.50 return for a family of

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