Court of Audit critical of Flemish Basic Accessibility Decree

The Belgian Court of Audit is very critical of, among other things, the preparation and elaboration of the Basic Accessibility Decree. With that decree, postponed several times and now being rolled out in phases, the Flemish government wanted to replace supply-driven essential mobility with a demand-driven transport model with several transport layers, including customized transport.

“The complexity of the switch has been underestimated, resulting in a lack of transparency and fragmented regulations and a delayed rollout,” it says. Moreover, the demand-driven model is at odds with budget constraints, raising questions about the feasibility of the desired modal shift.

No thorough evaluation of essential mobility

According to the Court of Audit, a thorough evaluation of basic mobility failed to materialize at the policy preparation level, even though the Flemish government had proposed it as a starting point. “The objectives in the Basic Mobility Decree rely mainly on a concept note from 2015. They are not unambiguously formulated, and clear links to the spatial framework, the fight against transport poverty, or the climate objectives are missing,” the Court of Audit said.

The Court of Audit also states that the regulatory framework lacks transparency and consequently leads to legal uncertainty. The decree has been amended several times, and there was a “fragmented delivery of implementing decrees”. The institution also criticizes the decision to replace the desired full rollout of the decree in the summer of 2022 with a phased rollout since January 2023.

Limited power for 15 transport regions

The Court of Audit further notes that the center of gravity of mobility planning has gradually shifted from the provincial to the regional level and that the 15 transport regions and accompanying transport region councils only have limited power. Although the transition to basic accessibility was not supposed to entail additional operating costs, according to the Court of Audit, there is no budget-neutral operation either.

It states that the public transport company De Lijn initially foresaw a 7.5% passenger gain by introducing basic accessibility. Still, the Court of Audit considers it uncertain that this number will be realized and warns that the funding of basic accessibility may come under pressure.

Moreover, the desired, thorough fare and ticket integration also failed to materialize because the Flemish Government has not yet approved a fare framework, and the fare policy is divided among 16 participants.

Finally, the Court of Audit points out that the realization of Hoppin points, where different modes of transport come together and are coordinated, is proceeding with difficulty. “By the end of August 2023, only 4% of the planned Hoppin points had been realized. Therefore, the goal of realizing 1,000 Hoppin points by the end of the legislature seems unachievable.

Minister defends herself

In a reaction, competent minister Lydia Peeters (Open Vld) says that she recognizes that a more thorough preparation would have made the complexity of certain elements more visible earlier and thus could have led to fewer ambiguities.

However, the minister does point to the doubling of funds for customized transport, because of which, according to her, it cannot be said that basic accessibility creates transport poverty. She also admits the slow start of the Hoppin points but stresses that catching up has begun.

Peeters also emphasizes that she will ask her administration to consider the Court of Audit’s recommendations and, where possible and appropriate, implement them.


The Flemish opposition, which previously decried De Lijn’s new transport plan, is also reacting sharply now. “The Court of Audit makes firewood out of the amateurish way the Flemish government has handled this process,” says Stijn Bex of Groen. “That amateurism combined with insufficient resources has meant that many Flemish people can no longer count on good public transport.”

For Bex, the report shows Minister Ben Weyts (N-VA) rushed an unsupported reform through parliament just before the 2019 elections. “Minister Peeters never really got the dossier under control, and the transport regions, so says the Court of Audit, drew up regional plans without measurable objectives and a solid Flemish framework.

Els Robeyns of Vooruit is also critical. “The Court of Audit rightly notes that the whole plan was mainly a budgetary operation,” she says. “In other words, a saving, as we have always said. Not only has public transport been phased out, but additional blind spots were created that drove people off the bus. Poor preparation with disastrous execution. This is the sad result of two legislatures neglecting our public transportation system.”


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