MECHELEN – On Saturday, January 6, 2024, a new and extensive adjustment to the De Lijn network will start in the context of basic accessibility. By the beginning of January, 89 percent of the new network will have been implemented, and for six of the fifteen transport regions this phase marks the largest and final step. The transport regions of Antwerp, Kempen and Mechelen will have to wait until January 2025 until the entire project has been rolled out. The new De Lijn flex buses, the successor to the call buses, will also start operating in all transport regions on January 6, 2024. These flex buses can be reserved via the Hoppincentrale. From then on, there will be area-wide flexible transport throughout the Antwerp transport region.
This flexible transport is used at times and locations where using a regular bus is not efficient. The flexible transport will be more extensive than the current dial-up bus offering, not only because it covers a larger area and serves more municipalities, but also offers wider availability. The flex buses usually have wider time windows in which the traveler can count on transport. In concrete terms, this means that seventeen percent of the stops will disappear. On October 25, there were still 19,639 stops. Of these, 16,392 remain. De Lijn calculated how many residents will have a stop less than 750 meters from their home. This concerns areas with at least 200 inhabitants per square kilometer. In the Antwerp transport region this is 99.5 percent (was 97.2 percent), in the Kempen transport region 95.3 percent (was 95.9 percent) and in the Mechelen transport region 98.7 percent (was 98.9 percent).
From Wednesday December 6, everyone can reserve a flex ride (for a ride from January 6) via the Hoppincentrale, the app, the website or by telephone. All De Lijn fares and tickets are valid on the flex buses. From January 6, flex buses will be available on virtually the entire territory of the Antwerp transport region. Exceptions where this is not possible are the port area (but in the residential zones) and the stops on the free tram and bus lanes.
Reservations can be made up to 30 minutes before you want to leave. The day before (at 5 p.m.) you will receive a message from De Lijn when you will be picked up. The exact time will be confirmed one hour, 30 minutes and 10 minutes before vehicle arrival. Through the app. you can track the exact location of your flex bus. You pay in the same way as you pay for a regular bus ride. A Mobib or ten-ride card is therefore also valid.
Ann Schoubs, director general of De Lijn: ‘The way in which the customer is picked up naturally depends on which means of transport is available at that time. This can be a regular car, a bus of four or eight,… The principle is that you always depart from a flex stop that goes to a stop on the core network or the supplementary network, from which you can continue with a regular bus or tram . So it is not a personal taxi service. We want to deploy public transport resources in the places where they are used most. People who live in isolation may have to make a larger journey than today, which is why we must carry out regular evaluations with the transport regions. It may well be that no one gets on at a certain flex bus stop for two days. When someone makes a reservation, the van’s route will be adjusted.’ Lydia Peeters (Open Vld), Flemish Minister of Mobility: ‘If you have to visit every stop – especially in the rural areas – you have longer travel times. We want to prevent that by automating. To make public transport faster, a number of stops will disappear, but the flex buses will have to compensate for that.’ The other changes to travel times and lines are immense. De Lijn will provide detailed information about this in the coming weeks. This will happen on Monday for the Antwerp transport region, where the biggest changes are on the Left Bank.
Photo De Lijn