Bus Éireann needs to clarify the numbers affected by driver shortages and give a timeline for resolution of the issue 

The Social Democrats have called on Bus Éireann and the Department of Education to immediately outline what steps will be taken to address serious shortcomings in the operation of the School Transport Scheme.

Jennifer Whitmore, who is the party’s spokesperson on children and climate action, said:

“Despite qualifying for the School Transport Scheme, parents and students in parts of my Wicklow constituency have been left high and dry this week due to the last-minute cancellation of some routes. It is completely unacceptable that they received such late notice just days before the new school term was due to begin.

“As a result, parents have been scrambling this morning to make alternative arrangements for getting their children to and from school. In some cases, this includes runs to multiple schools.

“Speaking on RTÉ radio this morning, the chief executive of Bus Éireann blamed the issue on driver shortages. We now need clarity on the number of routes impacted, the number of students affected and a realistic timescale for resolution.

“Ultimately, we need to see the rollout of a nationwide school bus programme so that every student who needs transport can get it. This would tackle the cost-of-living crisis, eliminate gridlock and help in meeting our climate action targets by reducing the number of cars on our roads.

“Bus Éireann has also indicated that grants will be made available for families who will be left without a school bus service in the coming weeks. We need to hear full details about how much these payments will be, what exactly they will cover and who will qualify.”

Catherine Murphy TD, the Social Democrats spokesperson on transport, said:

“There is a perception that this is exclusively a rural problem but it is also a major issue in commuter belt counties such as Kildare. When the Department of Education builds large 1,000-pupil schools, the catchment will be wide. However, very often schools are full so students can’t get into the one closest to them where there might be public transport options.

“Many constituents have been telling me about the stress of trying to get children to three different schools every morning, with some even considering giving up work as a result. Others are paying more than €750 a year on private transport arrangements and, due to the pressure of mortgages, will not be in a position to sustain the cost this year.

“My office has been inundated with representations on the school transport issue, which I have consistently raised with the Minister for Education.”

August 28, 2023

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