The storm over Flemish public transport company De Lijn’s new transport scheme has not died. In an interview with the newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws, top woman Ann Schoubs says that De Lijn wants to raise ticket prices if the Flemish government does not release an extra 100 million euros annually. However, in principle, the Flemish government has frozen fares for 2024.
With schools and most offices reopening on Monday, De Lijn faces its first real test for the roll-out of the new transport plan, which means 3 200 fewer stops. Schoolchildren and commuters will thus experience first-hand exactly what the new plan entails. But the fuss about that new plan has not ended, or a new storm is already brewing.
Because costs have risen significantly due to inflation, De Lijn wants to introduce price increases. “We have made a fare framework proposing that, but it has not yet been approved at the Flemish level,” says CEO Schoubs. “However, we need to get that done as soon as possible. We have even received the comment from the Inspectorate of Finance that we need to index our rates.”
Minister doesn’t say no
But Flemish Mobility Minister Lydia Peeters (Open Vld) has blocked an indexation/price increase of tickets for 2024. The new management agreement has given De Lijn more freedom to set its fares and offerings. For example, it can decide to make a bus ticket more expensive during peak hours. But a general price rise requires the Flemish government’s approval.
It is estimated that the transport company under fire – recently, De Lijn also made headlines for preferring 500 Chinese BYD buses – will see 24 million euros less coming in due to non-indexation. De Lijn, which accounts for a government grant of 1,2 billion euros annually, is again presenting the bill to the Flemish government.
On Monday, the minister was a guest on the VRT program ‘De zevende dag’. Asked if the Flemish government should not just give De Lijn more money instead of handing out bonuses for the purchase of EVs, Peeters replied that she did not skimp on De Lijn and she supports the demand for more money. “With more money, you can always do more.”
“Mobility is a basic need,” Peeters also said. “Everyone has a right to public transport. No one should be left out in the cold. I will watch over that.”