Uber as an alternative for De Lijn buses?

Flemish MPs of the ruling coalition launched an idea to replace the system of "dial-a-bus" (buses on demand) by the private taxi service Uber. This could save the Flemish public transport company De Lijn, which provides the service, a lot of money, and allow it to focus more on its main lines, the MPs claim.

The proposal was made by Annick De Ridder, Ludo Van Campenhout and Paul Van Miert of the Flemish nationalist N-VA, Dirk De Kort and Lode Ceyssens of the Christian democrat CD&V and Mathias De Clercq of the liberals of Open VLD.

'Dial-a-bus' as De Lijn calls the initiative, is meant to provide a public transport service to people living in remote areas where there are no buses or trains. Passengers have to dial a specific number to order the bus (a kind of van) which comes to pick them up at certain hours.

The MPs suggest that the taxi service Uber could be a good alternative. They want to go even further and scrap existing lines that are still being served by De Lijn, but that are not seeing many passengers because the area is not very populated. They say that Uber could make services much more flexible. It would also allow De Lijn to concentrate more on its main lines and provide a better service there.

De Lijn is not against

De Lijn, which is facing new cuts as Flemish public spending is down, is not against the idea, but De Lijn director Roger Kesteloot demands that a clear frame be created for Uber first.

He adds that 'Pick me up' provides a similar service at present, cooperating with classic taxis instead of Uber. The latest idea could cause new frictions between the classic cab drivers and the private Uber drivers, it seems. However, the proposal first has to go to parliament.

The Flemish socialists, who were ousted from the ruling coalition after last year's elections, are against the idea, arguing that it is in fact a hidden way of making extra cuts in the public service sector. "Innovative taxi services have their place in a modern society, but they cannot simply replace a classic bus service", says Joris Vandenbroucke.