Complaints made to the ombudsman of the Brussels public transport authority STIB in 2020 fell by one-third in 2020, according to the latest figures.
In 2019, ombudsman Jean-Pierre Alvin received 313 complaints. In 2020 that number dropped to 202, more than one-third fewer.
Among the reasons was the coronavirus epidemic, of course. For that reason alone, the network was very much less populated, as people worked from home or were placed on temporary employment.
“As a result of these measures, there were fewer commuters, but also fewer Brussels residents using public transport in the capital,” the ombudsman explains in their report.
Another consequence of the epidemic was that there were fewer checks carried out on public transport – checks which always add their share to the number of complaints. That logically had the effect of making it easier for fare-dodgers with fewer consequences. And to make 2020 even more of an unusual year, three out of four complaints to the ombudsman were found to be grounded, compared to roughly one-half in what we must now refer to as ‘a normal year’. The majority concerned travel documents.
In the course of the year, the STIB introduced the possibility to pay for a single trip using the contactless function of a normal debit card. The cost was higher, but removed the need to find a payment terminal in stations or, more rarely, at above-ground tram stops, where the terminals are much less often present.
But while the debit card payment allows the passenger to buy a ticket, it is less easy for stewards carrying out checks to determine if the ticket has reached its one-hour expiry. And some stations, particularly underground, were still not equipped with the means to unlock the transfer/exit gates for those passengers.
The ombudsman points out that complaints about the accommodations of the services have almost entirely dropped off since the rolling stock has in recent years been updated. The contactless terminals have also gone down well, particularly in the pandemic period when contactless payments have entered into their own.
At the same time, however, the ombudsman points out that new applications can be confusing to some, and attention must be paid to the possibility of confusion in the use of payments or tickets.
The ombudsman received 83% of complaints in French, 16% in Dutch and 1% in English.