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According to De Standaard, a pilot project with electric buses that would soon start in Ghent is not going to take place. The construction of a charging point at the Ghelamco Arena failed on financial requirements of the real estate company Ghelamco, which owns the land. 

"After ten months of negotiating the placement of a charging point on the bus platforms of the stadium, Ghelamco suddenly charged way too high a fee," Roger Kesteloot, CEO of De Lijn, told the newspaper. "We couldn't possibly go into that."

According to information from the newspaper, the company asked 50.000 euros per year for fifteen years. For comparison: the entire installation (pole, cabin, connection) was budgeted at just under 541.000 euros.

At Ghelamco, director Philip Neyt does not want to confirm or deny this amount. 

“De Lijn's question was not put into a finished file, we never seriously negotiated about it. It seemed to us to be one of the many slopes. There is a bit more to it: power supply, safety. The charging point is on our ground, so we remain liable. No, I cannot describe De Lijn's actions as anything other than amateurish. Can I point out that we paid for the bus stop at the stadium itself? ”

After the problems at De Lijn in recent months - strikes, poor services, many retiring employees - the framing of this story quickly becomes an anti-De Lijn story. Compared to projects abroad - where more buses are often used for such experiments - and the participation of the transport company in the Belgian Zero Emission bus project and the frequent participation of De Lijn specialists, it could be expected that the public transport company not very large (or ambitious) project that would have been less amateurish. Given the large number of experiments outside Belgium, it is also questionable what could have been gained with tests with the intended pantograph technology. And certainly for 15 years, a somewhat generous trial period.

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After the start of the Ghelamco scenario, De Lijn looked for an alternative to the Blaarmeersen, but there was no power supply there and installing additional cables would cost too much and take too much time. "The timing was so tight that an alternative search in Ghent was no longer an option," said Kesteloot. Choosing a location and equipping can easily take six months to a year. When preparing the power supply for a new tender alone, the Amsterdam Transport Region assumes a minimum period of at least two (!) Years.

Because the public transport company does not want to leave the 20 e-buses purchased idle, they go to Antwerp and Leuven. There are charging points in private areas. In Leuven they drive with travelers from January, in Antwerp in the spring. Many e-bus specialists miss the point of such a cut-up pilot project.

In previous media reports, De Lijn had given the impression that the city of Ghent had refused permits for the charging stations, but that turned out to be incorrect. No permits are required for charging stations, but for the electricity cabins that accompany them. But that was not the bottleneck. The cabin at the stadium had already received the green light from the ship's college in January this year.

A displeased Filip Watteeuw (Green), the ships of Mobility, calls it in De Standaard a “very strange state of affairs”. “In April we receive an email from De Lijn asking to put our heads together. In November we hear that the plan is canceled. In the meantime, we never received a signal that there was a problem. While we were willing to mediate between De Lijn and Ghelamco, or wanted to look for alternatives. ” 

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The ships say they will try to overturn the decision. He will address De Lijn and the Minister of Mobility Lydia Peeters about it. "We will continue to ask for those buses to get into the city." In the evening Peeters said that "De Lijn wants to find a solution".

In any case, the cancellation of the bus project is very inconvenient. In January, the Low Emission Zone (LEZ) will enter Ghent and older, polluting vehicles will no longer be allowed to enter the city. The arrival of electric buses fitted in nicely with that picture. 

Also read: De Lijn will find no charging stations and will scrap electric buses