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Friday, 30 November 2018

Oostende (Ostend), Belgium

The city of Oostende lies roughly mid-way along the Belgian coastline.  It is the largest settlement on the Belgian coast, although with around 70,000 inhabitants it is still relatively small.

The longest tram line in the world passes through Oostende.  The line in question is De Kusttram, the Belgian coastal tram.  This is an inter-urban line stretching for nearly 70 kilometres along the entire length of Belgium's coastline, from Knokke near the Dutch border to De Panne, close to the border with France.

De Kusttram is an integral part of the bus and tram networks provided by De Lijn, covering the whole of Belgium's Flemish region.

Much of the route of the coastal tram is on reserved track.  However, the tram runs on-street through the centre of Oostende.

I visited Oostende in August 2018.  Most of the trams I observed were high-floor vehicles, with a low-floor centre section providing step-free access.

These trams are single-ended with doors on one side only.

From my observations, most if not all of the high-floor trams were carrying commercial advertising on the centre section, at least on the offside.
 




 

Many were carrying more extensive advertising, extending over the windows with "contra-vision".









 
Operating alongside the high-floor trams were a smaller number of longer, fully low-floor trams.

Some of these were single-ended, with doors on one side only.




 




Others were double-ended, with doors on both sides.

De Kusttram operates throughout the year, generally at a 20-minute frequency during the winter months, rising to a 15-minute frequency during from April to October.

During the peak summer months of July and August, De Kusttram operates at an enhanced frequency of every 10 minutes throughout its length, with additional trams on the busiest section from Oostende to Westende.
 
I understand that the increased summer frequencies are provided using trams loaned from DeLijn's network in Gent.












Most of the route of De Kusttram is either a short distance inland from the shoreline, or shielded from the sea by coastal defences.

South of Oostende, however, De Kusttram runs right along the seafront for a few kilometres.




 


























With the exception of De Kusttram, Oostende's urban public transport is provided by buses.

Seven bus services operate primarily or wholly within Oostende.  I found full-size single deck buses in use on six of the seven routes.



Many of the buses are hybrid-powered.  These are identifiable by their higher roof line.

Most of the buses I observed in use on urban services had three sets of doors.










 
 


 















Oostende has a small airport.


Bus route 6 links the airport with the city centre.  There is no dedicated airport coach service.





As well as hybrids, there were also some conventional diesel-powered buses in use.

Some of these vehicles had two sets of doors rather than three.






















Not all the buses on Oostende's urban network were standard single-deckers.

I observed articulated buses on route 4 at peak times. 





 
Route 1 operates through some narrow streets and around some tight corners in Oostende city centre.

Smaller buses are used on route 1.  These vehicles are diesel-powered and have two sets of doors. 



 
 







 


 
The smaller buses can be found on other services too, at least on Sundays.






A network of bus routes extends out from Oostende into the surrounding area.

On these services, most of the buses I saw were full-size single-deckers with two sets of doors.


 
 






 



 


















I also observed one three-door vehicle operating on one of the out-of-town routes.










Not all of the out-of-town services are operated with full-size buses.  I noted smaller single-deckers on route 46, an infrequent service to Klemskerke, to the north-east of Oostende.











Oostende's railway station forms the hub of the public transport network.

At the time of my visit, major development work was being carried out to improve the transport hub.

The existing bus stands were out of use.

Buses were operating from a temporary bus station nearby. 







There is a tram stop adjacent to the bus and rail stations.

This includes a De Lijn enquiry and ticket office.






 




The existing tram stop is busy, and can be quite cramped.





 


A new tram stop is being built within the railway station.







Frequent train services operate from Oostende, through Brugge (Bruges) and onwards to other Belgian cities including Antwerpen, Brussels and Liège.

These are provided by Belgian national rail operator NMBS/SNCB.





Fares on DeLijn bus and tram services are simple.  A single journey ticket costs €3.  This allows transfers for up to 60 minutes.  These can be bought from the driver when boarding buses, and on trams at stops where there is no ticket vending machine.  They can also be bought from DeLijn ticket offices.  The tickets must be validated when boarding a bus or tram.

Ten-journey tickets are available for €16.  These also allow transfers for 60 minutes for each journey.  These tickets are not sold on board buses or trams, but can be bought from ticket vending machines, DeLijn ticket offices and a network of DeLijn agents.  They must be validated on boarding.  One ten-journey ticket can be used by more than one passenger when travelling together.  It must, of course, be validated for each passenger travelling.

One-day tickets are also available allowing unlimited travel on DeLijn services throughout the Flemish region.  These cost €6 if bought from a ticket vending machine, DeLijn ticket office or agent.  They can also be bought from bus or tram drivers for €8.  Three-day and five-day versions are also available.

A seven-day ticket is available for the West Flanders province, which covers Oostende and the entire Belgian coastline.  This costs €24 for one person or €36 for two people travelling together.

Separate fares apply on the NMBS/SNCB train services.  The train fares are not integrated with those of DeLijn.

Finally, two "novelty" services cater to tourists visiting Oostende.

A road train provides tours of the city at weekends from April to October, and daily during the peak summer season.

The road train tour starts from the seafront.  More information about the tour can be found on the Visit Oostende website.








Horse-drawn carriages can also be hired for tours of the city.

The Visit Oostende website has further information.

















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