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Tuesday 26 September 2023 Dublin: 15°C
Sasko Lazarov Education Minister Norma Foley
# Back To School
Difficulties in procuring extra buses and drivers for school transport scheme, says Foley
The Education Minister has said that there are plans to increase the capacity of the scheme amid unprecedented demand.

LAST UPDATE | Aug 29th 2022, 5:47 PM

EDUCATION MINISTER NORMA Foley has said that there are currently difficulties in procuring additional buses and drivers for the school bus scheme, as schools begin to return this week.

Foley said that there are plans to increase capacity on the scheme and that Bus Éireann are currently working to increase the number of school buses and drivers.

“There is a difficulty in procuring additional buses and bus drivers but we are working through those issues,” said Foley, speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

It comes 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.

Families who are eligible for the school bus scheme are set to save €500.

Foley said that there have been 115,000 school bus tickets issued so far, which is the highest ever number of tickets issued in a single year.

The Minister added that additional tickets would be issued to families today and tomorrow and that Bus Éireann are currently issuing 6,000 tickets a day.

Foley said that there would be additional space on buses to allow concessionary tickets to be issued this year, but that those eligible for the scheme would be prioritised.

Currently, primary students are eligible for the scheme if they live more than 3.2 kilometres away from the closest primary school, while secondary students are eligible if they live more than 4.8 kilometres away from the closest secondary school, with some exceptions.

“In the round, we must be fair and say that for any scheme there must be an eligibility criteria,” said Foley.

“Those who meet that eligibility criteria become eligible but where there is additional capacity, and this will be the case this year, there will be additional capacity on buses, then concessionary tickets will be made available.

“In the short term now, there will be an inconvenience to parents but in the long term, this is a positive, proactive measure for many, many families. It is a huge saving of financial resources.”

One mother, who lives in northeast Galway, told The Journal she has not yet received bus tickets for her five children, despite using the service for over six years without any previous issues.

“When I contacted Bus Eireann last week, I was told no seats were allocated to my girls. We both work in Galway city and leave the house at 6.50am to avoid traffic in the city. It is looking like our girls will have to be dropped at the school at this time as we have no means of getting them to Athenry without a bus.

I am not even sure the school will be open at this time. I feel very aggrieved as a lot of the homes around me have received tickets. At this stage it’s not about free transport we are willing (as we have in the past) to pay for this service.

“When we returned to school after the pandemic our route was split to half-capacity and two 52-seater buses were assigned to the route with approx 25 children on each bus. If this could be accommodated during a pandemic, without any issues, why can the same not be organised to date? This is causing undue stress at what is already a difficult time when returning to school,” she said.

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