City Pass is financial flop
The City Pass, a combined subscription (60 euro) for unlimited use of train, tram and bus in the cities of Antwerp and Ghent, is a (financial) flop. One year after the pass was introduced hardly 538 people – 459 in Antwerp, only 79 in Ghent – bought one, “because the pass is too expensive and not flexible enough”, critics say.
The City Pass was introduced last fall with a large marketing campaign but marketing costs now seem to exceed the earnings. Already in March of this year it looked to be stillborn and after a year that trend is confirmed.
Local aldermen for mobility think the Pass is too expensive in proportion to the offer. “I think public railway company, NMBS, and public transport company, De Lijn, are afraid to cannibalize their products”, says Antwerp Alderman for Mobility, Koen Kennis (N-VA), “which is making it a half-hearted product. Both companies should offer a wider product for a larger transport region.”
The City Pass only serves stations in and around the city, not really offering added value. Travelling from Boom to Antwerp city, for instance, is not allowed with the City Pass. Besides, the traditional ‘Omnipass’ of De Lijn is also valuable on all buses and trams in Flanders and costs only 48 euro, so for somebody who seldom travels by train, the City Pass is overkill and too expensive.
Flemish Mobility Minister, Ben Weyts (N-VA), and public transport company, De Lijn, are not worried yet about the poor sales results of the City Pass. “The formula is not known yet”, they say. “Like all new products, the pass needs time to become more popular.”
According to the NMBS spokesman, Bart Crols, people have to get used to the idea of using other means of transport, and this takes time. “That’s why we’re investing in communication and promotion campaigns.”
The City Pass will be available in the NMBS and De Lijn offices as from 2019. There will also be a special City Pass, valuable for 24 hours. The price for it is not known yet, but a similar pass in Liège and Charleroi costs 6 and 7 euro respectively.