Never before have so many complaints about cancelled De Lijn buses been received, according to Bart Weekers, the Flemish Ombudsman.
"The complaints from travellers from the periphery of Brussels going into the city are the most pressing. Something needs to be done urgently," he said to Bruzz.
In 2018, 200,000 bus journeys were cancelled, nearly double the number of 2017. Around 14,000 complaints were also received by the customer service department about the punctuality of buses and trams.
"It mainly concerns lines 355 and 260 towards Brussels that experience the most problems," according to De Lijn. There are no definitive figures of cancelled buses in 2019, but everything points to the fact that things have gotten worse, according to Weekers.
"This is the result of the savings policy that the Flemish government imposed on De Lijn," said Rita Coeck of the socialist trade union ACOD to Bruzz. "There is no will to keep the public transport efficient, and all travellers have to bear the consequences," she added.
De Lijn referred to all the measures that have been taken in recent years to combat the shortage of drivers. "We are fully aware of the problems that exist, which is why we want to end this year with 570 newly recruited drivers. We have already recruited 500. All the efforts we make pay off, but that is not immediately visible on the outside," said Inge Debruyne, the spokesperson of De Lijn to Bruzz.
"We are more flexible when it comes to recruiting drivers. The Dutch language requirement becomes less strict, and grammatical errors are overlooked. The biggest cause of our shortage of drivers is the ageing of the population: a lot of drivers are retiring. At the same time, we are adding a few extra bus lines in some places, which, in turn, require more drivers," she added.
The Brussels Times