It appears that Zeeland could be without bus transport from 2025. Recent tenders show that no transport company has shown interest in providing bus transport in the region. This comes as a blow to the provincial government, which had hoped to improve the quality and efficiency of public transport.
The current contract for it regional transport in Zeeland expires at the end of 2024. No carrier has reported to take over bus transport in Zeeland from 2025, reports Broadcaster Zeeland. The lack of interest may have various causes, ranging from the relatively low population density in Zeeland to the challenges that carriers see in operating the bus lines.
Many routes are not profitable and government subsidies are not sufficient to close the gap. In addition, some transport companies have already indicated that the lack of suitable staff, especially bus drivers, plays a role in their decision not to register. The provincial government is now faced with a complex challenge. Alternative forms of transport, such as shared cars or demand-driven systems, are being investigated as possible solutions. But these cannot completely fill the void of a full-fledged bus network and require a different organizational and financial infrastructure.
The province has created a new transport plan for 2025 and buses will no longer stop in village centres, but at so-called hubs outside the villages. One of the challenges with using hubs in less densely populated areas such as Zeeland is that travelers often have to travel quite a distance to even get to the hub. For people without their own transport, or for whom traveling is difficult, such as the elderly or people with disabilities, the distance to a hub can be a significant barrier.
In addition, hubs can lead to longer travel times if they are not well integrated into the existing network, especially if there is little frequency in the timetable of connecting transport. For example, if the buses only run once an hour and the connection to the train is poor, this can mean a lot of extra travel time.
It is unclear how to proceed next. The province of Zeeland and the municipalities involved will have to consult in the short term to tackle the mobility issues. At the same time, pressure is being put on the national government to intervene and provide a sustainable solution for public transport in less densely populated areas. One thing is certain: time is running out, and without decisive action there is a threat of a mobility crisis in Zeeland.
The current concession Zeeland includes all bus lines that fall under the management of the province of Zeeland, with the exception of bus transport to/from the recreational transferium in Renesse. Connexxion provides bus transport in this transport area until 2024.