Express Newspapers owner Richard Desmond yesterday turned on a new £100m printing plant in Luton.
The first newspaper to roll of the presses shortly after 9pm last night was today's edition of the Daily Star. Over the next few months production of the Daily Star, Daily Star Sunday, Daily Express and Sunday Express will be switched their current Docklands site to the new Luton plant.
The move means that the Express titles will now be available in full colour.
Express Newspapers has described the Luton move as a 25-year investment in the future of print titles.
When the four printers are full operational they will be capable of printing one million full-colour newspapers every three hours – which is said to be double the capacity of the existing Northern and Shell West Ferry plant in Docklands, London.
Asked by Press Gazette why he was making the investment at a time when print newspaper circulations in general are declining, Desmond said: 'My newspapers haven't declined over the last 11 years. The Daily Star was selling 400,000 when we bought it, it now sells around 800,000. Eleven years ago there wasn't a Daily Star Sunday, it now sells more than 800,000 every Sunday. The Daily Express and Sunday Express are in line with the market.'
The new Luton site, which is next to Luton airport, is big enough to potentially accommodate the whole Northern and Shell operation – which is currently based on Lower Thames Street in central London.
But asked whether there were any plans about moving commercial and editorial teams to Luton, Desmond told Press Gazette there were 'no thoughts'about doing that.
Asked whether he would consider buying any of News International's newspaper titles if they were to come on the market, Desmond replied: 'I really don't buy people's old tarnished products. We could always buy the Mail and close it down and do Britain a good favour."
The Luton plant will also have the potential to print Northern and Shell's magazine portfolio including the OK!, New and Star titles – and there plans for it to bid for other major printing contracts across the UK.
Desmond said: 'Through these investments our print interest is now firmly in line with the rest of the Northern and Shell group as a major modern competitor in UK media business and we demonstrate our belief in the future of print media for the next 25 years and beyond."