Proposal for Uber to replace belbus in Flanders
Four CD&V members of the Flemish parliament have suggested replacing the on-demand bus service in rural Flanders with the alternative taxi service that is currently contested in Brussels
Call for change to remote service
De Lijn’s belbus aims to offer public transport in thinly populated areas of Flanders where demand is not high enough to support a scheduled bus service. The bus has to be reserved in advance, which can be done weeks or hours ahead of the journey.
The fare is the same as it would be for a scheduled bus service. However, the belbus is expensive for De Lijn. “CD&V wishes for De Lijn to remain a powerful public company,” the four wrote in an opinion piece which appeared in De Morgen. “But if Uber is able to replace certain remote buses, then De Lijn can offer a higher-frequency service on its basic lines. That way, more people will be able to make use of public transport.”
In return, Uber, which is hotly contested in Brussels and has now started making inroads in Flanders by servicing Brussels Airport, would have to agree to a “minimal legal framework” to ensure fair competition and passenger safety.
“It can be an important addition or alternative to public transport to tackle the fine granularity of the services in sparsely populated areas,” the op-ed says.
The principle of collective taxis is accepted by De Lijn CEO Roger Kesteloot, who has been in talks with PickMeUp, a service similar to Uber, which is legal as it employs only officially licensed taxi drivers. “I am convinced that this service, which is less controversial than Uber, could be a worthwhile addition to what De Lijn offers,” he told the newspaper. “Peer-to-peer systems will pop up more and more in Flanders.”
Fellow coalition party Open VLD were open to discussion, but opposition socialists were angry. “The government is pulling out and leaving rural bus services to others,” said Joris Vandenbroucke. “In an effort to sound innovative, they drag up the name of Uber. But Uber can never fill the gaps De Lijn is creating.”
“I can understand that people are considering scrapping the belbus,” said Pierre Steenbergen of the national federation of taxi and hire-car drivers. “But why look immediately towards Uber? Uber is not a trustworthy partner.” Mobility minister Ben Weyts has yet to comment.
This week the Flemish parliament begins considering the new management agreement for De Lijn for 2016-2020, and it is known that Weyts is in favour of dropping the regulation that everyone in Flanders should have a bus stop within 500 metres of their domicile. The parliament will also this week vote on a resolution for the introduction of regulations for new taxi services, including Uber.
Photo: A belbus and a line bus at Dendermonde station
Traffic in Flanders
largest area covered in traffic ever recorded in Belgium in kilometres
time Antwerp drivers spend in gridlock per year in hours
traffic diversions in Flanders per year