Concessionary transport issue causes concern for parents

A north Tipperary mother-of-three has hit out at Bus Éireann for what she contended had been a lack of communication on school bus transport for her eldest child who has just started school in Nenagh, and has vowed to continue her protest about concessionary access.

Rachel Flynn from Moneygall said other parents had been in contact with her to say they have also had problems getting their children on Bus Éireann buses. Distance to nearest school and concessionary access are issues that have surfaced for many parents in recent years.

“I have three children aged six, 10 and 12. Aoife, the eldest, has just started at St. Mary’s secondary school in Nenagh. The two youngest boys attend Moneygall national school and get a bus from the house which is two miles from Moneygall,” Rachel said.

“St. Mary’s secondary school is 11 miles away from Moneygall. Aoife was allocated a ticket from Toomevara which is 5.2 miles from Moneygall, so half way. This is not what we applied for. Bus Éireann issued this on August 21, a week before school started,” said Rachel.

“We have been using the Bus Éireann school bus service for the last eight years and have never had any issues. They haven’t told us anything as we cannot contact them.

“There haven’t been any replies from constant emails and phone calls. A private message on Facebook told me they would have someone contact me as soon as possible since last week and still no return reply or update,” she said.

“Currently we are driving Aoife into school. We cannot sustain this. More importantly, we have paid for tickets since July 27 so are entitled to her ticket. Aoife started officially on Monday 7. She is very upset, as are all the children involved. There are 13 in total, not knowing how they’ll get in and out every day,” said Rachel.

“There is a Bus Éireann school bus stopping in Moneygall at present and some children got issued with a ticket, approximately four children in all. There has been a bus taking secondary school children from Moneygall to Nenagh under concessionary rules for the last 40+ years and there never has been an issue,” Rachel maintained.

Bus Éireann’s customer service is a disgrace. This is so frustrating and upsetting for parents and their school children.

In a statement issued to AgriLand, Bus Éireann said it operates the school transport scheme on behalf of the Department of Education, transporting 120,000 children on 7,000 dedicated school routes every year.

Distance eligibility

“To be eligible, primary school children must live more than 3.2km from their nearest national school, and post-primary school children must live more than 4.8km from their nearest education centre.

“Distance eligibility will be determined by Bus Éireann by measuring the shortest traversable route from the child’s home to the relevant education centre,” the spokesperson said.

“Availability for children who do not meet these criteria may vary from year to year, and concessionary transport cannot be guaranteed for the duration of the school cycle.

“Unfortunately, demand often exceeds supply in various areas of the country. Families who do not secure transport have the opportunity to appeal the decision through the department of education.”

This appeals process is available year-round and further information is available at the Bus Éireann and department of education websites, according to the spokesperson.

“Any parent or guardian wishing to organise alternative transport arrangements and cancel their place on the school transport scheme is entitled to a full refund of their school transport scheme fees from Bus Éireann. Parents or guardians can apply for this refund on our school transport ‘family portal’ service,” the spokesperson continued.

Bus Éireann’s school transport team is working urgently to reconfigure services through scheduling changes and to add new appropriately approved vehicles and drivers to the post-primary school transport system, following updated public health guidance published on August 18, 2020.

“Though we have a dedicated team of almost 20 people handling phone calls, we regret that there can be delays in connecting at the moment due to the large volume of calls we are receiving.

“The web chat facility is now reinstated on our school transport website and there is general information about the operation of school transport for 2020/21 available on the website,” the spokesperson said.

Spare seats

Rachel said she was contacted by Bus Éireann via email and told that children who are not eligible for transport may avail of transport on a concessionary basis, provided there are spare seats on the service and they pay the annual charge.

“Unfortunately, in this case, the school bus is full and cannot accommodate all concessionary pupils on the Moneygall bus. Where a bus is full, we try to accommodate pupils on the next nearest stop which is Toomevara.

“I appreciate this is further from your home and, as this is not suitable, we can arrange a full refund following receipt of your ticket,” the company representative said.

Under the rules of the scheme we cannot create additional accommodation to accommodate children who are not eligible under the scheme because to do so would incur additional cost for the State.

Rachel told AgriLand that she was “fuming” about the situation and would continue her efforts. “We will be continuing to pursue the situation as we need that Nenagh bus from Moneygall. There are too many children who need it.”