Private coach company Flixbus, until now restricted to travel between cities in other countries, may now provide a service between cities in Flanders like Ghent and Aalst, the Flemish government has decided. The company has a chequered history, having withdrawn from its main terminus at Brussels’ North station after complaints of luggage theft as passengers rush to board the bus. Some reports said drivers stood by and did nothing; drivers themselves argued they have no powers to intervene.
As a result, the terminus has moved to the nearby Avenue Albert II, which the company admits will make it more difficult for tourists to find their way, but the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.
The North station has its own bus terminal, under the main station, but bus companies – not only Flixbus – have complained it is badly lit and intimidating to visitors. The office of Brussels mobility minister Pascal Smet has promised a thorough make-over of the underground bus terminal – which serves principally De Lijn buses – but even speculative plans have not been revealed.
In any case, the decision by the Flemish government to open up competition to its own service will present De Lijn with more problems than a dusky and rather sinister passageway.
Flixbus has now been given permission to offer a direct coach service between major Flemish towns and cities. At present, the company can carry passengers between Brussels and Antwerp, or Aalst and Ghent, so long as the trip forms part of a longer service into another country, for example from Brussels to Amsterdam.
“That’s absurd,” commented Flemish mobility minister Ben Weyts on announcing his decision.