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Varadkar said the free school transport scheme aims to save families €650 per year. Alamy Stock Photo
School Buses

Tánaiste suggests 'nominal fee' for school bus tickets next year

Free school transport was announced by Government during the summer.

TÁNAISTE LEO VARADKAR has indicated that there could be a nominal fee for school bus tickets next year. 

His comments come amid unprecedented demand for the school transport scheme, after the Government announced they would be waiving the fees in early July as part of a package to reduce back-to-school costs.

Speaking during Leaders’ Questions this afternoon, Longford-Westmeath TD Sorca Clarke said the situation was an “utter mess” and that parents were “pulling their hair out” trying to get their children a school bus place.

She said the Government had failed to plan for increased demand following the decision to provide free school transport this year.

An extra 10,000 school bus places are needed to “get on top” of the situation she said, adding that the Government had “made a bags of it” by rolling out free places without additional capacity. 

Responding, the Tánaiste said the Government is aware of the concerns of parents, acknowledging that the issue is being raised with TDs around the country. 

An additional 21,000 places were provided, Varadkar said. He told the Dáil that it may not have been enough.

The initiative is aimed at saving families €650 per year, he said.

‘Nominal fee’

“Next year, perhaps there’ll be a nominal fee. But that is a matter for next year,” he said.

He said it is not fair to say that Minister Foley did not plan for the increase in demand. 

Varadkar added that the minister will appear before an Oireachtas Committee soon to deal with any further questions and queries. 

Clarke said there is now “a crazy situation” where parents, who previously had a school bus place for their child, are being forced to give up work in order to get their children to school.

She added it was not a mistake to waive school transport fees but it was mistake not to put on sufficient capacity. 

Last month, the education minister conceded that there are currently difficulties in procuring additional buses and drivers for the school bus scheme.

Foley said work was underway to increase capacity on the scheme and that Bus Éireann is currently working to increase the number of school buses and drivers.

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