Bus Éireann to review all existing school transport routes in Longford-Westmeath
The Minister for Education and Skills Norma Foley TD has confirmed that Bus Éireann will review all school transport routes in the Longford Westmeath region, with local TD Joe Flaherty suggesting that many families are desperately wondering how their children will get to school without additional capacity.
Nationally, almost 120,000 students use Bus Éireann's School Transport Scheme on behalf of the Department of Education, accounting for 40 million journeys each year.
More than 100 people work on the Scheme, excluding drivers and mechanics, and there are 11 dedicated local school transport offices right throughout the country.
A spokesperson for Bus Éireann says the company is:
- Reviewing all 2,100 post-primary routes to determine which solution can most quickly and appropriately deliver the 50% capacity. Solutions will range from schedule changes to additional resources in terms of vehicles and drivers. One-fifth of services will be at 50% capacity from commencement.
- Assessing which routes will need more resources in terms of vehicles and drivers
- Identifying those additional vehicles and drivers and making arrangements to procure these services through a competitive process
- Ensuring that all vetting and inspection of quality and safety standards is maintained, as well as appropriate procurement processes
- Training drivers and contractors about the Covid-19 prevention protocols across primary and post-primary transport
Fianna Fáil TD for Longford-Westmeath, Joe Flaherty, said the review of all school transport routes will determine if additional buses are needed on some routes to allow them to abide by the public health guidelines.
Deputy Flaherty added, "I am already working with many families desperately wondering how their children will get to school without additional capacity on these routes. Many have missed out on a concessionary spot on a school bus this year and as a result some parents are having to take time off work to get them to school.
“I want to commend Minister Foley for the work she and her Department have carried out to date in facilitating the return to schools this month. Now, I am hopeful that the Minister's reassurance offers people in this situation a glimmer of hope that a seat may be allocated after all.
“We will continue to work with parents over the coming days and other families facing similar difficulties should contact my offices.”
Miriam Flynn, Chief Schools Officer, Bus Éireann, said “The entire team at Bus Éireann has been providing road passenger services nationwide over the past six months and is well-experienced in managing Covid-19 prevention measures. We have worked intensively with all stakeholders – the Department of Education, contractors, drivers – so that the school bus will be there on reopening day for every student with a valid ticket, with significant additional public health measures."
She added, “All stakeholders have been fully committed to meeting public health guidance for a safe return to school. That remains the case and we will work through logistical challenges to achieve the new guidelines as expeditiously as possible.”
Bus Éireann has advised that any parent/guardian wishing to organise alternative transport arrangements is entitled to a full refund of their School Transport Scheme fees from Bus Éireann.
The Minister of Education has also announced that, at the end of the school year, a grant will be available relating to post-primary children who are eligible for transport whose parents/guardians choose to make private transport arrangements arising from the most recent health advice.
This must be notified to the Department of Education at schooltransportrefunds2020@ education.gov.ie by Friday, September 4.
Further information for parents / guardians is available at gov.ie/backtoschool