The school bus “chaos” that is occurring is having a “major impact” in rural areas.
A number of TDs are calling on Minister for Education Norma Foley and Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan to resolve ongoing issues in the school transport system, which is seeing “thousands of students denied a place on their local school bus this year”.
Sinn Féin spokesperson on transport Darren O’Rourke said that the “record number” of refusals is due to “poor planning” by the government.
“It seems no preparation was done during the year and instead, the government has walked into yet another avoidable mess,” the Meath East TD said.
“Public transport is now moving to 100% capacity, but school buses are to remain at 50%.
“That means a student in Dublin can get to school with Dublin Bus at full capacity, but a student down the road in Meath is denied a seat on their local school bus due to half-capacity and has to find alternative arrangements.
“I can’t understand this inconsistent approach.”
Children left ‘stranded’
Martin Kenny, Sinn Féin TD for Sligo-Leitrim added that school bus transport is a “vital service” in rural areas, “where walking and cycling simply are not an option for students”.
“The situation this year is worse than last year with more students than ever set to miss out on a place on the scheme,” the deputy added.
“It is simply not good enough that they [ministers] have let it get to this point already.”
Meanwhile, independent TD Michael Collins described the situation that has left children “stranded” without bus tickets as “nothing short of shambolic”.
Deputy Collins said that his office is “inundated in the last week” with communication from parents on the issue in his constituency of Cork South-West.
He claimed that many parents “who had been told they were expected on the system” found out “literally hours before the schools reopened there [were] no tickets available”.
“This is totally unacceptable for working parents to find themselves in this crisis situation,” the deputy said.
“The system of calculating what school children are attending what school is simple; a tender for a suitable sized bus should be equally as simple.
“But for some unknown reason, the whole process is being made complicated, leaving dozens of children stranded.”
Tickets not issued for school bus transport
Cork East Labour TD Seán Sherlock added that rural families in particular are “being penalised further by delays”.
“The school year has started but yet concessionary tickets have not been issued to people,” the deputy said.
“So many families are understandably anguished about this. They’re not sure whether or not their children will have tickets for the coming school year.”
Labour is calling for Bus Éireann to be given a “greater allocation of resources through the Department of Education” to manage the School Transport Scheme so that tickets can be issued – and “issued straightaway so that families can have some peace of mind”.