Improved rail access from London to Luton airport in the morning peak is to be introduced from next year.

The operator of the new 2014 Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern rail franchise will be required to run a minimum of two services an hour between St Pancras and Luton Airport Parkway during the busy morning period.

The requirement has been issued to train operators shortlisted for the bid following successful discussions between the airport and the Department for Transport.

The airport says the lack of early morning rail services under the current timetable excludes up to an estimated two million users every year from considering rail as a viable means of transport.

The new minimum twice-hourly service represents a significant improvement in rail connectivity with the capital.

With an estimated 300,000-400,000 existing passengers expected to use the improved link, the airport is encouraging shortlisted bidders to think more creatively and beyond the minimum timetable requirements set out in the invitation to tender.

Luton airport is to work closely with train operators shortlisted for the TSGN franchise to ensure their bids meet the requirements of airport users.

These include:

  • Operating a timetable for the benefit of existing and future passengers

  • Designing rolling stock with airport passengers in mind, such as improved luggage facilities

  • Introducing a simplified ticketing option, such as smartcards

  • Creating a distinct identity at each station to promote and guide airline passengers to the service

  • Addressing the confusion of a separate charge for the shuttle bus between Luton Airport Parkway and the airport terminal

Airport managing director Glyn Jones said: “Rail access to London Luton is already highly competitive in terms of speed, frequency and cost, and the new franchise arrangements will improve that offer even further.

“This latest move helps us to achieve our aim of increasing the proportion of passengers who travel by public transport to more than 40% by 2017; a key consideration in our plan to develop in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way and improve the overall experience for our passengers.”