De Lijn withdraws from ‘bell bus’ service
The call-up bus service, the ‘bell bus’ as we know it today, will disappear in 2022. In the future, people in the countryside who need public transport will have to order a taxi, a private shuttle or a shared means of transport. Public transport company De Lijn will no longer coordinate and organize this kind of public transport, newspaper De Morgen writes on Wednesday.
The future rides will have to be ordered via the Mobility Center, a covering dispatching center for the whole of Flanders. Travelers can book a trip by phone or app, and the dispatcher selects the most appropriate transport mode.
Until recently, De Lijn wanted to rake in this public assignment. Last year, it started to cooperate with technology company Siemens and call center In2Come. Together, the three companies would participate in the tender via their common subsidiary sMIND.
Today, De Lijn, however, has decided to pull out. A decision that has significant consequences because it means that the so-called tailor-made public transport will be privatized.
According to De Lijn’s director-general Ann Schoubs, Flanders’ public assignment is too expensive, too unclear, too complex, and the risks are too high. In a message to its staff, De Lijn explains that “the project’s scope is not clear enough, the timing extremely tight, and the possible fines very high”.
Four possible candidates
According to the Flemish Minister of Mobility, Lydia Peeters (Open Vld), there are still four possible candidates left to negotiate with. One of them seems to be the French IT Group Capgemini. Whoever will sign the assignment will have quite a responsibility.
The future Mobility Center’s range of duties consists of arranging ride reservations, invoicing, dealing with travelers’ feedback, and taking care of the communication with transport partners. In the meantime, most employees of De Lijn retain their jobs.