From 2026, Flemish public transport company De Lijn risks paying an estimated 30 million euros in fines because Euro 6 buses will then no longer be allowed in the low-emission zones (LEZ) in Antwerp and Ghent.
To avoid that scenario, Flemish Minister of Mobility Lydia Peeters (Open VLD) is in a crisis meeting with her colleague of Environment Zuhal Demir (N-VA). Opposition party Groen denounced this ‘cynical attitude’ of the Flemish government. “The government asks citizens to follow the LEZ rules but adjusts them when it fails to comply with them itself.”
“Current LEZ is not a good proposal”
The Flemish coalition agreement states that there should be emission-free public transport in cities by 2025. To achieve this ambition, 70% of the fleet should be replaced by then, and the charging infrastructure in the 138 depots should also be installed at an accelerated pace.
However, according to the director general of De Lijn Ann Schoubs, that won’t happen. Something that has been known for some time because the greening of De Lijn’s fleet kept dragging on in recent years. In 2017, for example, De Lijn purchased another 55 diesel buses of the so-called “Euro 6 diesel” standard.
However, according to the present LEZ rules, these Euro 6 buses will no longer be allowed to enter Ghent and Antwerp as of 2026. For De Lijn, this could lead to an estimated 30 million euros in fines per year.
Minister Peeters now says she wants to do everything possible to avoid these fines. “I would much rather invest those 30 million euros in e-buses and other greening projects than in fines for entering the LEZ”, Peeters said in the Flemish Parliament. The Minister calls the LEZ plan as it is currently on the table ‘not a good proposal’ and is therefore talking with her colleague Zuhal Demir for a solution.
Too little, too late
Green MP Stijn Bex can’t tolerate this attitude of the Flemish government. “How cynical can you be as a government? You ask ordinary citizens to prepare for that LEZ and possibly invest in a new car. But if, as a government, you don’t meet your own rules, then suddenly you must talk about postponement? Just admit that too little has been invested in green public transport, ” Bex said.
In March, De Lijn announced purchasing up to 600 new e-buses. Its fleet currently numbers 2 250 buses. By 2035, De Lijn’s plan calls for 3 433 e-buses that will travel 200 million emission-free km yearly. There are presently 64 e-buses from De Lin on the road in Flanders.
Emergency button for cross-border behavior
Yesterday it also became clear that the Minister wants to ask De Lijn to test an emergency button for cross-border behavior on the transport company’s app. De Lijn recorded 135 reports of sexual, transgressive behavior on vehicles or at stops last year. That’s 45 more than the 90 reports in 2021, a 50% increase.
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