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A 1.3 mile Cable Car goes ahead in Luton but the long-awaited Metropolitan Line Extension in Watford does not.

Luton DART MapConstruction work began on the confusingly named "Luton DART" this May. "DART" stands for Direct Air-Rail Transit but also refers to the Dublin Area Rapid Transit rail route from Bray to Malahide and Howth through Dublin - a line that is well familiar to Luton's 20,000 Irish residents (over 6% of the population).

The 2.1 km route will run from the new Bartlett Square development adjacent to the existing rail station to the Luton Airport Terminal with a journey time which will be "less than four minutes".

The transport link will run 24 hours a day and and will be a fully automated double shuttle sytem driven by cable. It will be supplied by Doppelmayr Cable Car, part of the Austro-Swiss Group, Doppelmayr Garaventa, based in Wolfurt, Vorarlberg. Doppelmayr Cable Car already have a similar air-rail link operating at Birmingham International Airport. The civil engineering is being carried out by a joint venture firm, Volker Fitzpatrick Kier.

The system is expected to be operational in Spring of 2021 and is expected to handle 18 million passengers a year. Preliminary civil engineering work has been underway for some time.

The first phase of sheet piling work started on 17th October and will run from Monday to Friday 0730 to 1800 for 6 weeks.

The second phase of piling will also take 6 weeks and will start on Monday 29th October and because this is close to the airport taxiway will, for safety reasons, be carried out during the night when the airport is closed, from Monday to Friday, 2200 to 0500 as well as during the weekends of 9/10 and 16/17 November.

LLA DART Construction Starts (London Luton Airport)However, Herts County Councillor for Tring and the Villages, Nick Hollinghurst, commented.

"If this encourageds people to access Luton Airport by public transport then that is a good thing. If it stimulates further use of air as a form of transport then this may not be so desirable. To the extent that aircraft fuel is untaxed it is effectively subsidised compared to road and rail and it is also a significant contributor of greenhouse gasses."

"In addition, it is a major source of irritation for people in South West Herts and North West London is that a £350 million Metropolitan Line Extension (MLX) which would improve access to Watford General Hospital for all of the local people, plus giving a large number of suburban Londoners easier access to main line trains, is not to go ahead. The Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership estimated in 2016 that the MLX would boost the Watford and North London economies by £2 billion a year and generate 6,500 permanent new jobs.

Instead of supporting a new tube/national rail interchange at Watford Junction with direct London Underground services into the heart of London plus dozens of locations along the way, plus rail access to a key local hospital and a massive boost to the local economy, the government and the Mayor of London have decided to cancel it in favour of a 2 train cable car system just 2 km long that costs only a small amount less!"

What's more important? Better access to a major hospital, improved transport in the north of the capital, 6,500 new jobs and £2 billion into the local economy or better access for a 2 week break in Disney World in Orlando or on a beach by the Med?"

"Put it in those terms and you can see that Hertfordshire and North London are being badly short-changed by the Tory Government and the Labour London Mayor!"

Pix thanks to Wikipedia and London Luton Airport.