Driver shortages force De Lijn to cut number of rides

Staff shortages continue to trouble the Flemish public transport company De Lijn. From 1 September, it will temporarily and structurally cancel certain rides across Flanders due to staff shortages. According to De Lijn, around 0,75% of all journeys are affected. The Flemish transport company stressed that bus lines and school rides will be safeguarded.

“The search for new drivers and technicians is a considerable challenge, especially in regions with high competition,” says spokesperson Karen Van der Type. Rides were already dropping out regularly recently. To guarantee reliable service, De Lijn is choosing to reduce the frequency of several bus lines temporarily. The adjustment to the timetable will be spread all over Flanders and should not have a significant impact.

Travelers can see the adjusted timetable in De Lijn’s route planner. The transport company will inform travelers further in the coming days. The schema will be reversed as soon as enough staff are available again.

Last year, De Lijn recruited 657 new drivers. This year, the plan is to recruit 900 additional drivers, but this is proving difficult because supply is tight on the market – by the end of April, 330 had been recruited.

Shortage of buses

Trade union ACV Openbare Diensten currently sees mainly a shortage of available buses. “When no or too few buses are renewed for years, there comes a tipping point where the slow inflow no longer covers the outages,” it says to the Belga press agency.

The union believes Flemish Mobility Minister Lydia Peeters (Open Vld) would have been better off buying more diesel buses. ACV says the first electric buses still have testing troubles, and a learning process is still needed.

More and more defective buses

Indeed, the number of rides canceled due to defective buses continues to rise sharply at De Lijn. Last year, 19 769 rides could not be run because of faulty buses. In the first months of 2023 alone, this involved 18 140 bus journeys.

At the end of 2022, De Lijn had 2 235 buses and needed 1 676 buses daily. Across Flanders, an average of 406,7 buses were out of service daily in 2022.

There are currently 64 De Lijn e-buses circulating in Flanders. De Lijn expects to receive almost 70 e-buses this year. The aim is to have at least 1 370 e-buses running in Flanders by 2027, and by 2035, all of De Lijn’s fleet should be CO2-neutral.

De Lijn and the Flemish government were not only late in ordering new e-buses, but the delivery of the new e-buses drags on – bus manufacturer Van Hool, for example, delivers only two e-buses a week – which means that the replacement of old buses drags on much longer.

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