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De Lijn itself defends their decision by indicating that passengers can reserve the dial-up bus.

Winning her battle against the Flemish transport company De Lijn seems impossible in this local mobility debate. Jeanine Braekenier, better known as Babousch and living in Ledeberg, takes charge. At the age of 80, she took a silent walk of one kilometer along the Antwerpsesteenweg in Lochristi, ending at the local crematorium. Since transport company De Lijn abolished the stop directly opposite the crematorium at the beginning of this year, she has been forced to take this risky route, equipped with nothing more than pebbles and dangerous road conditions for her walker.

De Lijn has announced that it has no plans to put the bus stop in question back into use. As an alternative, they offer a call bus, but Braekenier does not take that solution seriously. “How can I know 24 hours in advance whether I will have the courage to grieve?” she bounces back. Braekenier was determined to hand her petition directly to the Flemish Minister of Mobility and Public Works, Lydia Peeters, as proof that this problem concerns the entire community. “I'm not just doing it for myself, young people are also signing the petition,” she emphasizes.

The issue takes on extra weight now that it appears that several De Lijn bus lines and stops in Ghent have been canceled. This also includes the line that is seen by many as socially extremely important. At the moment, the only hope for Braekenier and her supporters seems to be a clear signal to Minister Peeters to keep line 76 from De Pinte to Wachtebeke and to stop at the crematorium.

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Photo: Pitane Blue - Jeanine Braekenier from Ledeberg.

De Lijn itself defends their decision by indicating that passengers can reserve the call bus 175 or walk 650 meters further from the Lochristi Lichtelarestraat stop.

Jeanine Braekenier's silent march exposes a sore spot in Flanders' mobility policy, which affects not only Braekenier, but a broad section of the population. “What started as a personal frustration for me quickly grew into a broader issue,” she says. “I realized that I was not the only one affected by the disappearance of this bus line. The elderly in particular are the victims of this.”

“There are no sidewalks along the road I now have to walk, only pebbles, and that is life-threatening with my walker,” Braekenier sighs. However, this march was only the latest chapter in her growing protest. In recent months she has collected no fewer than 4.000 signatures, and she even took extra action during the Ghent Festivities to generate even more attention for her cause.

personal suffering

Her son Pascal (59) recently died, which makes her fight for an accessible bus stop at the crematorium even more urgent. The abolished bus line now not only limits her physically, but also touches her in the depths of her soul. “Only there can I mourn my son,” says an emotional Braekenier. Her story is therefore not just a story of a combative senior, but of a mother in mourning. And it's a reminder to policymakers that mobility isn't just a matter of getting from point A to point B. It is also about ensuring the emotional and psychological well-being of the population they serve.

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New developments may be in sight. From January 6, 2024, buses 76, 77 and 78 will run more frequently, approximately every fifteen minutes. Then there will also be a Flexbus, which you can reserve half an hour in advance. A step forward, but as Jeanine notes: “People are not mobile enough to bridge that long distance.”

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