Flanders: will the bus become more expensive during rush hours?
The Flemish public transport company, De Lijn, is investigating whether tickets should be more expensive during peak hours and cheaper during off-peak hours. Sources within the company report this. To be clear: it is only about tickets, not subscriptions.
For De Lijn, it could offer a solution to the problem of overcrowded trams and buses during rush hours. As its budget is tight, De Lijn cannot just put in new vehicles. “But then buses still have to run outside rush hours,” says the TrainTramBus passenger’s association.
Mobility expert, Kris Peeters, thinks variable fares are a good idea in theory. “If we book a trip or an airline ticket, we also find it normal that we pay more at one moment than at another.” Everything depends on De Lijn’s ambition. Will it only do it to reduce the number of travelers during rush hours? Or does De Lijn wants extra travelers during off-peak hours? In the first case, the company shrinks; in the second, it grows.
Hidden price increase
Critics also warn against a hidden price increase. De Lijn had to make savings for ten years now, while in the coming years, it will have to increase further its ‘cost recovery rate’ – the extent to which the income from tickets and subscriptions covers its costs. This is only possible by saving, which is impossible, according to sources within the company, or by increasing revenues.
Ticket prices vary depending on how busy the traffic is, for example, already the case today for people over 65 who take the train in Belgium. If they leave after nine o’clock in the morning, they benefit from a special rate. Otherwise, they don’t. With lower fares, De Lijn could tempt travelers to travel during off-peak hours, so that the pressure is better distributed.
Kilometer charge for cars
“For the TrainTramBus passenger’s association, this proposal can only be discussed for certain special tickets,” says chairman Stefan Stynen. “Provided, of course, that buses will be operating outside rush hours in the future. Because if you have to avoid rush hours in some rural communities now, I’m afraid you’ll never get anywhere.”
According to TreinTramBus, there should also be a kilometer charge for cars. “If we only impose restrictions on public transport during rush hours, using more expensive tickets, we will create an additional handicap compared to the car. This must apply to everyone, including motorists.”
Tickets more expensive anyway?
In any case, the option to increase the price of tickets is on the table at De Lijn, which is already under high pressure, partly because of the growing number of canceled journeys. “At the moment, scenarios with different amounts are being worked out. For each scenario, we examine what the effect would be on the number of passengers.”
Eventually, the Flemish government will have to make the decision. Mobility Minister, Lydia Peeters (Open Vld), does not want to comment yet.