Passengers’ satisfaction with De Lijn services is going down again. In particular, the punctuality of buses and trams and the prices charged by the Flemish public transport company are causing less satisfaction. This is according to measurements by market researcher Ipsos commissioned by the Flemish Department of Mobility and Public Works (MOW).
Exactly 62,3% of travelers gave De Lijn an overall score of 7 out of 10 or higher in 2022. Compared to 2021 (65,4%), this is a decrease. Then satisfaction improved for the first time in years, after an absolute low of 58,5% in 2020.
Less satisfied with punctuality
By far, the most critical aspect of passenger dissatisfaction is punctuality. While in 2021, 50% of passengers felt that buses and trams ran sufficiently on time, that proportion dropped to 45% last year.
De Lijn points, on the one hand, to increased traffic jams and congestion in Antwerp and Brussels as reasons for the dissatisfaction. On the other hand, the company struggled with staff shortages and faced strikes, which meant 2,74% of scheduled rides were canceled.
Travelers were also less satisfied with prices. The prices of De Lijn’s standard season tickets, ten-ride digital tickets, one-way digital tickets, and group tickets increased, in line with the index. Thus a single ticket, for example, became 25% more expensive.
Even slightly more critical than prices, De Lijn customers rate travel information, especially when services do not go as planned. Six in ten travelers are satisfied with this, stable compared to 2021; De Lijn’s app gets the best score.
900 new drivers
In a reaction to news agency Belga, De Lijn said, “it seems that travelers have become more price-sensitive over the past year”. “The war in Ukraine and the subsequent energy crisis probably play an important role here. All the more so because, in 2022, De Lijn adjusted its fares only slightly in line with inflation.” Apart from the price increases cited above, other transport tickets remained at the same price level, De Lijn stressed.
De Lijn also says that since the end of last year, it has brought its driver numbers back to “a workable level”. However, according to De Lijn, this does not alter the fact that it also faces a considerable challenge in 2023: recruiting 900 new drivers. “And that under difficult conditions: the tightness in the labor market continues.”
De Lijn is also working on a pilot project with a combi-ticket for parking and bus or tram rides. A project is in the pipeline in Antwerp; Ghent would possibly follow. That track is still being investigated.
The aim is to convince people to use car parks on the city’s outskirts and then take a bus or tram to the center. However, a concrete timing for its introduction is not yet in place.
In general, last year was a year “with two faces” for De Lijn. First, Corona measures were in place until May, and De Lijn started the year with 40% fewer passengers than in 2019. Then the numbers steadily picked up, and things got busier: at the end of December, there were only 10% fewer passengers than before the pandemic.
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