Dozens of De Lijn buses out of service due to Van Hool bankruptcy

Several dozens of buses are idle at De Lijn because the right spare parts are unavailable. These should normally come from Van Hool, but due to the bankruptcy, the bus manufacturer cannot supply them to the Flemish public transport company. De Lijn expects it will not stop at these dozens of buses and has set up a working group to see what actions it can take.

De Lijn has about 800 Van Hool buses in its fleet of about 2,250 buses, with about 300 with subcontractors. The public transport company has agreements with Van Hool for engineering, expertise, and software support, while the Lier-based company also supplies parts. On the one hand, these are engineered parts that it produces itself, and on the other, purchased parts for which Van Hool acted as a reseller.

About one bus in three from Van Hool

Van Hool was also called upon for maintenance and repairing heavier damage. But the bus builder’s bankruptcy last month halted all those processes. The trustees wanted a short-term restart with VDL, but that process has not yet been completed.

As a result, dozens of De Lijn vehicles are forced to stand by, something Flemish Mobility Minister Lydia Peeters (Open Vld) and the Belgian Federation of Coach and Bus Operators (FBAA) had already warned about.

Union complains about the quality of VLD buses

But there is another problem that puts the relaunch with VDL in a new light. According to the union, there are problems with the new buses VDL supplied to De Lijn. As a result, buses in Antwerp, for example, are standing by. The ACV union, therefore, wonders how the cooperation with Dutch VDL – if it takes over Van Hool’s bus operations – will go.

The coaching sector is also complaining bitterly. In the newspaper Het Belang van Limburg, several players testify that they can no longer get spare parts or receive service from Van Hool if something should happen to the bodywork, interior, or electronics of Van Hool’s buses.

According to FBAA, their members have a combined fleet of 1,044 Van Hool buses. CEO Pieter Van Bastelaere says the VDL take-over is already taking too long. He also fears that the new acquirer will not be able to guarantee full service. “The Van Hool brand will probably be halted,” he says. The coach companies risk heavy losses on new buses with an average depreciation period of 15 years.

An old sore

The situation at Van Hool is particularly inconvenient for De Lijn. The public transport company has suffered considerable image damage recently, among other things, due to introducing a new transport plan that abolished 3,000 bus stops throughout Flanders and preferred 500 Chinese BYD buses.

Last year, around one in 40 journeys did not run either due to staff and vehicle shortages, among other things.

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