Big increase in bus and tram service cancellation.

The number of bus and tram services cancelled by the Flemish public transport company De Lijn has increased more than fivefold over the past 5 years. According to an article in Saturday’s edition of the financial daily ‘De Tijd’ staff shortages have become a big issue at De Lijn. 

Last year more than 200,000 bus and tram services were cancelled across Flanders. This is more than five times the  37,353 services cancelled in 2013.

Each year De Lijn provides just under 11 million scheduled bus and tram services across the region. The 200,015 services that were cancelled make up 1.8% of this. 98.2% of service still ran as planned.

De Lijn’s Inge Debruyne told the paper that "This is still a relatively small percentage. However, any journey that is cancelled is still one too many”.

However, the relatively low percentage of journeys cancelled can’t a conceal a problematic trend. During the past 5 years the number of services that failed to run has increased systematically.

But how has this come about? Just over 60% (127,000) of cancelations came about as a result of industrial action. Last year there was much protest from the unions against reorganisation at De Lijn. However, around 20% (almost 40,000) of the cancellations came about due to staff shortages. Last year twice as many services were unable to run because there was no driver available than was the case in 2017.

Inge Debruyne told De Tijd that “For some time now De Lijn has been making efforts to attract new drivers. Unfortunately this isn’t easy as of course this is a profession where staff are in short supply”.

Ms Debruyne adds that De Lijn has attempted to simplify its recruitment procedure by amongst other things providing a telephone number through which candidates can apply.

Since the end of last year 250 new drivers have been recruited.

"Of course there is recruitment procedure, training and new candidates getting to know the job first before they actually start. This means that the increase in the number of drivers is not always visable straight away.