Professionals from Ecorys have conducted a feasibility study into a direct bus line between the Netherlands and Belgium. The line would run from Terneuzen to Ghent, and halve the travel-time between the two locations.
At present, there is no week-day direct bus line between Terneuzen and Ghent. Commuters between the two towns currently have to change trains in Zelzate, Belgium – something which sees their journey time double. While the distance between Terneuzen and Ghent is only about fifty kilometres, a journey with a transfer between the two places takes about two-and-a-half hours.
Looking to do something about that, and increase business links between the two cities while reducing the need to use cars, the Dutch province of Zeeland and the Belgian province of East Flanders are investigating running a direct bus service. To help weigh up the possibility of such a line, research and consultancy Ecorys was engaged for a feasibility study.
The researchers calculated that setting up a direct bus line between the two cities could reduce the travel time to about one hour. Meanwhile, it would cost around $500,000 to establish. However, according to Ecorys, it is hard to say if the new bus would be widely used enough to justify this price. The researchers presently see no obvious indications that the cross-border bus would be full – though this may be because the present public transport links put people off.
“It is not surprising, because everyone is still in the car at the moment,” explained Harry van der Maas, Deputy Mayor of the province of Zeeland (SGP), to regional newspaper PZC. “We should also not forget that supply also creates extra demand.”
Van der Maas added that a faster cross-border connection could then add “quality of life and at the same time boost the economy” for passengers in the Netherlands and Belgium. But it would need time to see such impacts.
Accounting for this, Ecorys’ study recommends that if the project gets the green light, the line should be maintained for at least five years. It can then be determined whether extra supply actually leads to extra demand.
No part of the plan is a sure thing currently, though. While province of Zeeland would like the bus connection to launch before the end of 2025, that depends upon East Flanders also being prepared to invest money in the project.
If it does go ahead, however, the bus line could also be regarded as a test case for a possible Zeeuws-Vlaanderen trainline between Terneuzen and Ghent. To date, that part of the Netherlands can only be reached by ferry or via the Western Scheldt tunnel, which will be made troll-free from 2025. If the connection between Terneuzen and Ghent proves to be a success, this may accelerate the premature plans to build a railway line between the two locales.
Ecorys is one of the oldest economic research and consulting companies in Europe. Its roots go back to 1929, when a group of businessmen from Rotterdam established the Foundation NEI: The Netherlands Economic Institute.