C: Carol Nolan TD & William Murphy CC BY-SA 2.0 https://bit.ly/3CvFnmg

TD calls on Government to intervene as school transport sector ‘signals potential collapse’

Independent TD for Laois Offaly, Carol Nolan, has written to the Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan, and the Minister for Education Norma Foley, to request that they both ‘immediately intervene’ and address the developing crisis in the school transport sector. 

It comes as Irish parents were warned that rising fuel prices mean private school bus services face the axe unless their operators receive more State-backed cash support. Deputy Nolan was speaking after a new survey from the Coach Tourism and Transport Council of Ireland (CTTC) found that almost all (95%) of private bus operators cannot guarantee services up to June in the absence of Government support.

Deputy Nolan went on to say that it has also been confirmed to her by the Minister for Education that her Department is in consultation with Bus Éireann to put in place a new process to facilitate the provision of School Transport Scheme Services for children arriving to Ireland from Ukraine.

“We are heading for massive levels of disruption, and to be frank, outright chaos for thousands of parents and children, if the school transport sector does not obtain immediate relief from Government,” Deputy Nolan said.

“Fuel price increases are driving coach operators to the brink of collapse as margins are eroded with frightening speed. Job losses are imminent.

“I understand that the Department of Education will be setting up a link to a form (which will also be available in Ukrainian and Russian) for families/host families to complete in order to apply for school transport. But what use will this be if there are no operators to take the children to those schools that are able to accommodate them,” Deputy Nolan said.

“I have been told that Ukrainian children will be accommodated quickly on existing services where there is capacity; that these children will not be charged for their ticket and normal eligibility criteria will be waived. I have also been informed that if there is no service or capacity, a remote area grant can be offered to the family as appropriate.”

“What I would say to both Minister’s however is that we need to deal with the immediate crisis that is going to directly impact tens of thousands of children, particularly those in rural Ireland, who depend entirely on a functioning school transport network,” concluded Deputy Nolan.

Rapidly-rising fuel costs could now lead to a reduction in all passenger services, not just school transport. With most private operators based in Dublin, “This situation is likely to cause significant disruption for regional commuters,” according to the CTTC. 

The survey conducted by the CTTC also offered a stark insight into the crisis engulfing the transport sector, with three-quarters of operators seeking an increase of between 20% and 30% in their income to carry on. Fewer than 10% say they need an increase of between 5% and 15%. It further found that 95% of operators say it is not ‘commercially viable’ to continue running services up to June without any subvention. A total of 90% of operators say they have seen fuel costs increase by more than 50% over the past 12 months according to the survey.

A spokesman for the Department of Education said it is engaged in discussions with Bus Éireann, which manages school transport on its behalf, about the issue.

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