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No tram between Gent-Sint-Pieters station and Korenmarkt for the next four years. This not only disturbs travelers, but also traders along the route. “Himschoot, St-Pierre, Herela, The Rambler, San Styles, Julie’s House, Pompette… we all already feel the difference in our cash register,” says Frode Lefevre of caterer Toulouse in Koningin Elisabethlaan.
The entrepreneurs do not complain about the passage to the city center. Every fifteen minutes another bus passes by towards the center. The problem is the way back. “The replacement bus will drive back to the station via the Bijloke and the Albert Bridge,” says Lefevre. “We have lost the customers who return from the city. This feels a bit like a knife in our back.”
It is much quieter in the street, especially in the evening. “Until a few weeks ago, people often came by after work,” says Hilde De Keyser of butcher shop St-Pierre, opposite caterer Toulouse. “It has been much quieter since the tram was abolished. Older people who came from the other side of Ghent by tram can no longer get here. We feel that.” (read more below the photo)
If the works on the road and tram tracks only lasted a few weeks or even months, then that would be less of a problem. But Lefevre and the other traders fear that customers will have forgotten them after four years. “After so much time, people get used to the new route, then they don’t return and we definitely want to avoid that,” says Lefevre.
“They also spent a long time working on the tram tracks in Gebroeders Vandeveldestraat. I know traders who have fallen victim to this. That shouldn’t happen here. In recent years we have done our utmost to make the station area a high-quality neighborhood. We definitely don’t want it to die here.”
Lefevre not only denounces the situation, he also proposes alternatives. “We have good ties with the City and kindly ask for a solution. If necessary, they will buy Harry Malter’s train,” laughs Lefevre. A shuttle service, or electric buses that constantly drive back and forth along the same route as before, is also possible, he says. “As long as they are properly and clearly indicated in the center and the station.”
Alderman for Economy Sofie Bracke (Open VLD) understands the situation and is willing to sit down with the traders. “In Veldstraat and Nederkouter, traders can apply for a Travak premium, since road works are taking place in their street. That is not the case in Koningin Elisabethlaan, but we are certainly willing to talk to traders to see where the biggest pain point is and how we as a City can help them.”