Public advocate calls for better compensation for bus passengers


De Lijn pays compensation when it cancels the last bus of the day, but the public representative wants to see this scheme extended to cover any service that is cancelled

Reasonable solutions

The Flemish Ombudsman wants to see transport operator De Lijn compensate passengers for cancelled bus services. The company already pays compensation when the last bus of the evening is cancelled, but public advocate Bart Weekers is calling for them to also pay compensation for inconvenience caused by cancelled journeys during the day.

Last year, De Lijn cancelled more than 200,000 journeys, usually because of staff shortages. “There are more and more complaints about it,” Weekers told De Standaard. “We know the problems, and we know the reasons. We also know that they are not easily solved. That is precisely the reason why I propose and insist that De Lijn should show understanding for passengers’ dissatisfaction by providing compensation.”

Saying sorry

Currently, De Lijn pays for taxis if it cancels the last bus of the day and people have no other way to get home. Weekers wants to see this scheme extended to services that are cancelled during the day.

“We are always looking for reasonable solutions. We look at individual cases,” he said. “I am also planning to present individual cases to De Lijn. But you could have a general ‘sorry pass’ such as the [rail authority] NMBS has.” This allows unlimited travel for a day on the whole rail network. “There are various creative ways to show that you understand particular complaints from your passengers and that you are working on it,” he added.

The biggest problem for De Lijn is a shortage of drivers, with the situation worst around Antwerp and Mechelen. “De Lijn’s biggest difficulty is in finding drivers,” said Weekers. “Measures have already been taken to solve this. I have faith that this approach will work. But as the situation is now, I think De Lijn should respond with compensation for affected passengers from the autumn.”

Weekers already works closely with De Lijn’s own ombudsman, and emphasised that he was not calling for laws or ministerial decisions to introduce large-scale compensation schemes.

Photo: De Lijn