De Lijn goes for 100 e-buses from Spanish Irizar E-Mobility

Spanish manufacturer Irizar E-mobility has won the Flemish public transport company De Lijn’s tender for a framework agreement for up to 100 electric buses for ‘high-quality public transport’ (HOV). Modern articulated buses bet on passenger comfort and are intended for longer-distance journeys. A possible investment of 117 million euros would be involved.

According to De Lijn, e-buses have, for example, USB charging points for mobile phones, phone holders, and reading lights. There are also seats with higher backrests, and more natural light enters the interior via lower and additional glass windows. The vehicle also features an electrically operated ramp for less mobile travelers and info screens with stop signs.

The HOV buses, with an average of 1.17 million euros per e-bus, are, therefore, intended for journeys over longer distances. They could initially be deployed in the province of Limburg to compensate for the underdevelopment of the rail network.

For instance, there will be an HOV connection between Hasselt and Maasmechelen and later from Hasselt to Maastricht and northern Limburg – originally, there was to be a tram project between Hasselt and Maastricht, but that project was discontinued.

However, Flemish-Brabant and West-Flanders could also get Irizar e-buses, which have an autonomy of 160 km but can be charged additionally on their route via fast chargers.

Best of three bids

To be clear, De Lijn is not yet placing an order with Irizar, a Basque manufacturer of luxury buses and coaches. “For De Lijn, it is a matter of good preparation which allows everything to go faster,” says spokesperson Frederik Wittock. “There is no need to do another tender once the decision to order buses is taken.” When that would happen is not yet clear.

According to De Lijn, the Spanish bus manufacturer submitted the best of three bids. The other two candidates were unknown. The company said all three bids met the minimum requirements,

Irizar’s e-buses run around in several Spanish cities, such as Barcelona, as well as Amiens in France, and Schaffhausen in Switzerland. Walloon public transport company TEC also has Irizar buses in service.

Urgent catch-up

Earlier this year, De Lijn ordered 92 buses from Chinese manufacturer BYD at 500,000 euros each, causing controversy. After all, Belgian manufacturer Van Hool was in dire straits then and suffered another blow with the competitor’s order.

De Lijn, which is terribly behind in electrification or greening its fleet with barely 80 electric ones on a total of 2,200 buses, also has a framework contract with Van Hool and Dutch VDL, which also produces in Belgium, for 350 e-buses. Of these, 60% each will be made by Van Hool and 40 by VDL. Within that 2021 contract, 60 buses have already been purchased.

De Lijn also concluded a framework agreement with Italian constructor Iveco in 2022 to order up to 500 articulated e-buses. So far, 109 of these have effectively been ordered. De Lijn aims to offer completely emission-free public transport by 2035.

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