Number of fare dodgers at De Lijn increases by +70%

Despite more checks, the number of fare dodgers at Flemish public transport company De Lijn has increased by more than 70% in five years. Moreover, De Lijn is losing a lot of money because half do not pay their fines. Last year, for example, 4,1 million euros out of a total of 8,2 million euros remained unpaid.

“The traveler who neatly pays his fare is thus the victim of a policy that does not prioritize tackling fare dodgers,” argues Flemish MP Els Robeyns (Vooruit), who requested the figures from Flemish Mobility Minister Lydia Peeters (Open VLD).

More than 60,000 fines

While 35,071 fines were issued for fare dodging at De Lijn across Flanders in 2018, that number rose to 60,357 in 2023, representing an increase of 72,1%.

But half do not pay their fines, according to recent figures requested by Robeyns and reported by news agency Belga and the newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws. Specifically, 4,1 million euros out of a total of 8,2 million remained unpaid in 2023. That is more than in 2022 when De Lijn lost 3,5 million euros out of a total of 7,2 million euros in fines.

“Issue is not taken seriously”

“Fare dodging costs De Lijn millions of euros every year”, Robeyns says. “Money they cannot invest in more, better and, above all, affordable public transport.” According to Robeyns, Minister Peeters did not take the issue seriously enough in recent years.

At the end of the legislature, the number of checks increased, but Robeyns believes checks alone are not enough; she calls for more prevention and affordable public transport.

In a comment to Het Laatste Nieuws, De Lijn acknowledges the problem, although it stresses that some of those millions will be collected later anyway. One reason for the delay is, for example, long-drawn-out procedures of up to eight months to challenge fines.

Free for young people?

It also turns out that 13,5% of fare dodgers are minors. A fine for a minor starts from 87 euros; for adults, it is at least 107 euros.

The provinces of Antwerp and East Flanders account for 38,7% and 33,2%, respectively, of all fines issued for fare dodging. West Flanders and Limburg only account for 7% each. According to a survey, up to 50% of all travelers ride undeclared in cities, compared to 10-15% in rural areas.

Vooruit proposes making public transport in Flanders free for young people up to the age of 25 “so that it is affordable for every young person.”

In Brussels, young people aged between 12 and 24 can travel almost for free with the transport company MIVB/STIB. There, they enjoy the preferential rate of 12 euros instead of 499 euros for an annual season ticket. The Brussels government wants to make public transport more accessible in this way.

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