Thursday, 17 April 2014

Liège, Belgium

The Belgian city of Liège has plenty of buses.  This should come as no surprise.

Liège is Belgium's third-largest urban area (after Brussels and Antwerp), but has no trams nor a metro.  The city's public transport system is provided with buses.

Since Liège lies within Belgium's French-speaking region, Wallonia, the buses are almost all provided by TEC (website in French only).  The one exception is a service operating into Liège once per hour from Belgium's Flemish-speaking region, provided by De Lijn.

Around fifty bus routes run into the city centre, providing quite an intensive network.  Some routes remain within Liège, others are interurban services heading out of the city to provide links to neighbouring towns.

When I visited in March 2014, articulated buses were in use on the busiest urban services within Liège.

Standard single-deckers with three doors were also operating on city services.

On certain routes, some of the buses display a backslash after the route number.  This indicates a variation from the standard routeing.  On route 60, however, it appears that all journeys now follow the variant routeing since all buses display 60\ as the route number.
From what I observed, all services heading beyond the Liège urban area were being operated with standard single-deck buses, mostly with two doors.


This image was taken at Place Saint-Lambert, in the heart of Liège.   The Prince Bishops' Palace forms the backdrop. 

Place Saint-Lambert is a busy hub, served by two cross-city routes along with a number of terminating services.

Not all routes serve Place Saint-Lambert.  Some terminate instead at nearby locations - Opéra, Place Léopold or Place de la République Française.

A number of bus routes enter and leave Place Saint-Lambert through a bus-only tunnel.

The tunnel has two branches.  One branch emerges close to Opéra, delivering cross-city routes 1 and 4 onto a dedicated bus lane in the centre of a major boulevard.


The bus lane continues southwards for a kilometre or two, and is used by many of the buses linking the city centre with the city's main railway station, Liège Guillemins.

Liège Guillemins station has been extensively rebuilt in recent times, with the work completed in 2009.

This image shows a bus in front of the station.

A couple of the interurban services terminate opposite Guillemins station, rather than in the city centre.



On my travels I have found diesel-powered double-articulated buses operating in five cities around Europe - Hamburg and Aachen in Germany, Utrecht in the Netherlands, Geneva in Switzerland and in Luxembourg.  The double-articulated buses in all five cities were built by Van Hool, a Belgian manufacturer, but how many operate in their country of origin?

Just one, a prototype built in 1996.

Eighteen years on, and Belgium's only bi-articulated bus is still active, in Liège.  From what I can make out, its regular haunt is route 48, linking the city centre with Guillemins railway station and the university.  It shares the route with other articulated buses.

On the day I visited Liège I was in luck.  I didn't need to spend any time looking for the bi-articulated bus, it turned up at just the right moment.


A very simple fare structure covers bus travel in Liège.  At the time of writing, a single fare covering travel within the city costs €1.90.  This allows unlimited interchanges for 60 minutes after the first bus was boarded.  An all-day ticket costs €4.

For travel beyond the urban area, a single fare of €3 is charged, with unlimited interchanges for up to 90 minutes. 

Future developments

Liège used to have a tram system.  In fact it had two - an urban tramway and an interurban system.  The systems closed in the 1960s, an era when oil was cheap and plentiful.

The bus system is now struggling to cope with rising demand.  To tackle this problem, trams are due to make a comeback in Liège.  Construction work has started, with the first trams expected to enter service in 2018.

More information about the project to reintroduce trams to Liège is available on the official website, Keskistram, but there is also a second site, TramLiège.  Both sites are in French only.

1 comment:

  1. I've lived in Liege now for four years, and I honestly can't say I've ever spotted/noticed the bi-articulated bus, even despite living near its' route.