Last year a revolution finally happened in Belgium. Or at least in public transportation. Bus and Metro operators De Lijn, MIVB and TEC joined efforts with rail-operator NMBS to provide a single contact-card for their customers. Or at least, that’s the plan.
With London’s Oyster card celebrating their eleventh birthday, it’s about time that a single standard was introduced in the postage stamp-sized country that is Belgium.
Right now each company is rolling out their own branded card with MIVB being almost completely switched from the older magnetic cards to the brand new RFID-enabled cards. They even offer an anonymous MOBIB card that everyone can use. Their personalised card can also be combined with the NMBS annual passes.
In fact, the NMBS made the switch in March 2013 with every new pass getting a MOBIB card. In fact, there are around 400.000 NMBS branded MOBIB cards.
A year and a half later there are still no concrete plans when the single fare tickets and Rail-passes will be added to the line-up. Reason is that they want to focus on delivering a solid service first before they want to open the system for every card our there.
With these two already having the opportunity to share the same card, our eyes are directed at the other two companies, De Lijn and TEC.
De Lijn is slowly merging their almost half a million annual passes in a phased rollout with the retired 65+ population and De Lijn employees getting first pick. In the summer of 2015 each of their 4500 vehicles will be outfitted with the new contactless readers, which coincides with the date that every annual pass renewal will be on a MOBIB card. For now their cards are still unique, as the software to share the cards is still being written. Information for TEC is scarce, but it seems they are running a similar path.
Apart from public transportation, Brussels bike-sharing service Villo!, car-sharing service Cambio and Interparking are also signed up, with Blue Bike, NMBS’s bike-sharing will also follow with an undisclosed schedule.
We can only applaud that the future is slowly getting here in Belgium public transportation, but at a frustratingly slow tempo.