04 Oct 2022

Lowry calls on Minister to take immediate action to address school transport shambles

Parents cannot be blamed for their outraged reaction says Tipperary TD

Bus ticketing delay forcing Longford children to switch schools

Schools have re-opened but many children cannot get onto the school transport system due to the demand.

Parents across the county are bristling with anger as schools have re-opened and many of their children have been left without school transport to get to their classrooms, according to Tipperary Independent TD, Deputy Michael Lowry.

"The Minister for Education clearly did not think this through when she made the grand gesture of waiving school transport fees for 2022/’23 to help parents cope with the rising cost of living. What seemed like a gesture of goodwill has instead become an absolute nightmare for many parents whose children either no longer have a concessionary bus pass, or find themselves without a much-needed seat on the full school buses, despite being fully eligible for a place," says Deputy Michael Lowry.

"Before making such a fanfare announcement, Minister Foley and her advisors should have closely examined what it would entail. Had they examined the existing capacity on school transport, it would have quickly become clear that this capacity would have to be significantly expanded before the schools re-opened to make this promise a reality.

"‘Instead, the proverbial cart was put before the horse and the Minister has since discovered, seemingly to her surprise, that demand far outstrips supply for school transport. The result is that many pupils that had been travelling to school by bus on concessionary passes for several years are now left, quite literally, on the side of the road.

Pictured above: Deputy Michael Lowry, TD

"Meanwhile, the Minister is only now engaging with Bus Eireann to procure additional busses and drivers. This is something that cannot be done overnight and should have been in place before the schools re-opened.

"The Minister should have paid heed to the warnings that there is a shortage of school bus drivers as a result of the ridiculous ruling that drivers of school buses must retire at 70 years of age. This issue was highlighted loud and clear by me in the Dail and is on the record for all to see.

"Considering that school bus drivers are often men and women who retired from full-time work and are happy to take up the part-time demand of driving a school bus, it makes no sense whatsoever to insist that they retire. This is particularly frustrating given that bus drivers over 70 years of age can continue to work in private bus hire and, not alone that, they can also work for State Bodies.

"Now we have a situation where unprecedented numbers have applied for School Transport. A staggering 130,000 applications were made for the scheme this year, with a third of those coming from first-time applicants. At the start of this week, as school began to re-open, just 115,000 tickets had been issued according to Bus Eireann. They have been fielding angry calls from parents about a situation that has not been of their making.

"Parents cannot be blamed for their outraged reaction, especially those whose children have travelled on the school bus for several years and now no longer have a place. Working parents have been forced to take time off work to drive their children to school, while those without transport have had to enlist the help of neighbours, family and, in some cases, hire taxis – so much for the Minister’s promise of savings of up to €500 per family per year by opening up the Scheme to all!

"This situation must be addressed immediately. Minister Foley must step up to the plate and take whatever action is required to correct the chaos her decision has caused. The Minister must accept that her actions have created this debacle and that it is her urgent duty to rectify it’ concluded Deputy Lowry.

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