Minister: More school transport tickets when ‘extra buses and drivers are sourced’

Minister for Education Norma Foley has said that more free school transport tickets will be issued as extra buses and drivers become available.

The Minister was responding to local TD Denis Naughten after a public meeting was held in Ballyforan to discuss the lack of capacity for students on the Athlone and Ballygar routes (see Roscommon People issue dated 2nd of September).

Deputy Naughten said he had received an unprecedented level of complaints from parents and had sought clarification from the Minister.

“She has now responded by stating that Bus Éireann will continue to process applications and issue tickets as soon as extra buses and drivers are sourced and become available to provide transport for the higher numbers qualifying for the service,” he said.

Deputy Naughten expressed disappointment that Minister Foley is not guaranteeing that children and their siblings who had a bus service last year will get a service this year.

The Independent TD said that there were a number of instances where parents who had been availing of the bus service for years, were now forced to drive up to 100km a day to transport children to school.

Deputy Naughten said that while the scheme was intended to bring children from rural areas to school, in some instances the only ones to benefit were children in towns.

“While I welcome and support the principle behind the Government move to ease the burden on all families, the lack of proper planning has caused chaos and left children who had a bus service up to this year on the side of the road”.

Deputy Naughten said that in many cases a school bus could be sourced – but the problem was finding drivers.

“This I believe can be resolved by Bus Éireann lifting its internal ban on drivers over the age of 70,” he said.

“It is crazy to think that drivers over 70 can drive private buses from one city to another all day but Bus Éireann will not allow them to use the same bus to bring children to and from school.

“Along with my independent colleagues across the country, we have tabled a motion in Dáil Éireann calling for specific steps to be taken by Government to ensure that all school children have access to a bus service as they did in every year up to now,” he concluded.