German-American ViaVan to provide customized transport in Flanders
The Flemish government had signed a contract with the private German-American company ViaVan to operate the Flemish mobility center. This center, a kind of umbrella taxi center or combi-mobility center for the whole of Flanders in the context of basic accessibility, must provide tailor-made transport in Flanders. It will replace some of the buses of the Flemish public transport company, De Lijn, which dropped out of the tender because it was too expensive and too complex.
According to the newspaper De Morgen and others, the Flemish government has entered into a contract worth 100 million euros, good for the next eight years. The mobility center is responsible for planning and booking journeys, and provides information about all public transport, analyses the user’s transport question and mobility possibilities, and refers people on if necessary.
The mobility center is an important part of the new Flemish basic accessibility. In the future, the center must help people plan their journeys, among other things. This mainly concerns people who do not or cannot use regular public transport, such as people with a physical disability or pupils in special education. At the mobility center, people will book a ride with a taxi, neighborhood bus, adapted transport, shared car, etc.
Via an app, you will get a personalized route based on existing and new infrastructure, but you will also be able to contact the center online and by telephone.
Reshaping public transport
The mobility center should have started on 1 January 2022. However, the procedure was delayed, partly because one of the candidates for the operation, Qarin BV from Amsterdam, among others, went to the Council of State.
But Flemish Minister of Mobility, Lydia Peeters (Open Vld), has now decided to take the plunge with ViaVan, a collaboration between German Mercedes-Benz Vans and American company Via. It already offers transport on demand in various European cities, including Amsterdam, Berlin, and London.
Via, which promotes itself on its website as a company reshaping public transport, was founded in 2012 in New York by Daniel Ramot and Oren Shoval, two Israeli entrepreneurs. They developed an algorithm that can match, in real-time, the number of passengers traveling in the same direction with the most suitable means of transport. Via is now part of Exor NV, the principal holding of the Agnelli family.
2023 at the earliest
In the meantime, the Minister has asked her administration to draw up a new timetable to roll out basic accessibility. According to her cabinet, we should count on 9 to 12 months before the mobility center can be rolled out operationally. Via will, therefore, not be available until 2023 at the earliest.
In addition, the minister will ask local authorities to contribute to the realization of the so-called 1 000 jumping-in points (Hopinpunten). These are junctions where people can switch from one means of transport to another.
The Flemish cities and municipalities receive 226 million euros from public transport company De Lijn to organize their public transport to more remote regions. “They are the indispensable link in this mobility story. Together with the local authorities, I want to build the mobility of tomorrow,” said Minister Peeters.