De Lijn: another 44 million for 23 new Antwerp trams
Flemish public transport company, De Lijn, got green light from its board of governors for another 23 new ‘low floor’ trams for Antwerp, costing 44 million euro. It’s the third instalment of a 294 million contract with Spanish tram builder CAF (Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles) for a total of 146 trams. Meanwhile, De Lijn got a ‘destructive’ report on its ReTiBo project for onboard ticketing from the State Audit Office.
The new 31,4 meter long CAF trams have 54 fixed seats, 22 folding chairs and 126 standing room. The low floor makes boarding easy for disabled people with a wheelchair. Each new tram replaces two older PCC trams that have a capacity of 75 passengers.
Deliveries from 2022
The first new trams will be delivered from the second half of 2022 on, with a new tram coming into service every two weeks. This order is part of the ‘biggest tram order ever in Flanders’, according to Mobility Minister, Ben Weyts (N-VA), totalling 294 million euro agreed in 2017 with Spanish CAF.
Canadian competitor, Bombardier, based in Bruges, was to work together with CAF commercially and got the mission to rebuild 53 Antwerp trams. Quality offered by both companies was equal, De Lijn said in June 2017, but CAF’s better price tipped the scales for the second time.
The first time Bombardier, which slimmed down its activities in Bruges after losing some big contracts, appealed against the order going to its competitor at the Council of State. The latter canceled it. It forced De Lijn to reconsider, but CAF came out as winner again.
Today De Lijn was given a rap over the knuckles again, this time by the State Audit Office that investigated the investment done on a new onboard computerized ticketing system, called ReTiBo. This system the bus and tram company ordered with external developers in 2005.
The project got delayed for five years and was still not delivered 14 years later by the end of 2018. According to the State Audit Office, costs estimated initially at 112,8 million euro, ran up to 154,7 million euro merely due to these delays.
‘Never win a beauty contest with it’
Roger Kesteloot, director of De Lijn, says that “it is no secret that the ReTiBo project was problematic”. Already at an early stage, De Lijn had to find out that its supplier couldn’t deliver what it had promised.
“We’ll never win a beauty contest for it”, Kesteloot added. He thinks it’s normal the State Audit Office made a very critical report, but he doesn’t call it ‘disastrous’. He counters the critics that the project wasn’t steered properly internally and was parted to external parties. “Working with external people was mandatory while we didn’t have the ICT competence internally”, the director added.