De Lijn orders first 17 electric tram buses for Spartacus project

Public transport company De Lijn has ordered the first 17 electric tram buses for the Spartacus project in Limburg. The decision was made in May last year to shelve the almost 18-year-old plans for a tram connection between Hasselt and Maastricht and replace it by electric buses to be delivered now by Dutch-Belgian bus builder VDL.

The buses should be operational as of 2024 and connect Hasselt, Genk, and Maasmechelen. The idea is to offer ‘high-quality transport’ on the three axes: Hasselt-Maastricht (line 1), Hasselt-Genk-Maastricht (line 2), and Hasselt-Pelt (line 3).

The timing is perfect, politically speaking. Elections will be held in May 2024, and Mobility Minister Lydia Peeters (Open Vld) would like to demonstrate she can get things going in terms of mobility in her own constituency. Minister Peeters was born in Maaseik (Limburg).

‘Bus Rapid Transport’

“This is an important step toward better public transport and better mobility in Limburg,” Peeters says. The vehicles have a tram’s quality and a bus’s flexibility. They have to win Limburgers over to leave their car at home more often and opt for public transport.

The newly ordered vehicles are 18-meter-long articulated buses built by VDL in Roeselare. VDL calls them ‘BRT’ buses, for Bus Rapid Transport for high-quality public transport, with low-entry floors, a high capacity, and more comfort for passengers.

The buses will have 45 seats and transport a total of 120 passengers. They will run every half hour and even every fifteen minutes in the long term. Travel speed will partly depend on the availability of free bus lines.

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