Bus drivers for the Flemish public transport authority De Lijn have raised the issue of the provision of toilet facilities when they are on the road.
According to figures provided by Flemish mobility minister Lydia Peeters in response to a parliamentary question, municipal authorities in 125 of the 300 municipalities in Flanders region have not provided a single toilet for bus drivers to use while on duty. De Lijn itself hires 134 mobile toilets for drivers’ use, at a cost last year of €307,140.
The issue was brought to the fore this morning on VRT Radio, with the testimony of a woman bus driver and the information that half of the municipalities in the province of Antwerp have no available toilet at all for bus drivers.
“It really is scandalous,” the woman said. “We are dependent on the goodwill of local business people. For a woman, that’s very annoying. She has been in the job for 16 years and is well aware of the problem.
“Man can always go to the side of the road if they have to, even if they do risk a fine. For me as a woman, there’s often nothing else for it but to hold it in.” But that can create problems of its own for women, from eventual loss of bladder control to urinary tract infections.
Asked by the VRT for comment, De Lijn pointed out that there are always toilets available for drivers at the start and end of their route. “But if there are still problems, the drivers can let us know and we’ll look into the situation,” a spokesperson said.
The company has various solutions to the problem: either a toilet inside a De Lijn building at the terminus, or an agreement with the rail authority at a station, or permission from a local business such as a cafe or restaurant to use their facilities. Should all else fail, the spokesperson said, a mobile toilet can be rented for the location.
The question to minister Peeters came from her Open VLD party colleague, Flemish MP Tom Ongena. “As a good employer, De Lijn ought to see that there are sufficient sanitary facilities for their employees,” he said. “In recent years a lot of effort has been made, but there are still four out of ten Flemish municipalities where no toilets are yet available. It would be best for De Lijn to get in touch with those specific authorities to come to a rapid and pragmatic solution.”