Bus Éireann have released a statement addressing the unprecedented demand for school bus places which have left many parents still unsure if their children will get a place on buses this coming school year.
The company said:
“With more than 112,500 primary and post-primary school transport tickets issued to date, Bus Éireann is continuing to work on processing applications, issuing tickets and securing contractors where necessary.
“A valid ticket is required for travel on school transport services.
“Ticket registration closed on 29 July 2022 with approximately 125,000 confirmed applications received, 44,000 of which were new applications – these include children who have moved residence, or who are changing school including moving from primary to post-primary, as well as first-time applicants to the scheme.
“The online account management system, known as the Family Portal, is now open and account holders can check the status of their application there.
“The normal eligibility criteria of the scheme still apply.
“Families that have already submitted a valid application prior to 29 July and have not yet received an update, are advised not to amend or alter their existing application as creating new or duplicate applications risks losing the existing application place in the system.
“While the re-opening of the portal also facilitates a late application process, it is very important to note that the application deadline for 2022/23 was 29 April 2022, and that the deadline to confirm registration for tickets was 29 July 2022.
“Any application completed after this date is a ‘late application’ and many school transport services are already operating at full capacity. Late applications will only be assessed after all ‘on time’ applications have been processed and there can be no guarantee of places for late applicants.
“Almost €4m in refunds have been made to families who had paid fees prior to the Government announcement waiving school transport fees this academic year as a cost of living measure. We are working to resolve refunds to people with accounts at banks who are exiting the Irish market.
“We thank our customers for their patience at this very busy time of the year and apologise for any inconvenience caused by the unprecedented demand for tickets.”
This week Louth TD Ged Nash criticised the government for what he says is a lack of planning in relation to school bus places.
The Labour TD has further said the government’s failure to invest in additional fleet capacity is making a mockery of school transport schemes.
In a statement to the Democrat Deputy Nash said:
“Over the past few weeks, I have been inundated with messages from concerned parents who are frantically trying to secure a school bus place for their children.
“With the return of schools fast approaching, many families have been left in the lurch after losing what are termed ‘concessionary’ tickets due to the current lack of school bus capacity.
"This comes off the back of the predicted soaring demand for school bus places since the government waived fees this year. Consequently, parents and pupils who in previous years enjoyed access concessionary tickets are now losing out.
“Many exam-year students have been left with the stress of finding a last minute solution to get to school with parents and guardians facing real challenges in terms of meeting work commitments if their children do not have access to a school bus.
“I have been in constant contact with Bus Eireann about this issue. Their officials have informed me that one of the main challenges they face is “the availability of buses and drivers within current public procurement guidelines”. Put simply, Bus Eireann’s hands have been tied due to a lack of Government investment in the school bus fleet.
“This school bus crisis was entirely predictable and avoidable. While the announcement to suspend school bus fees earlier this year was welcome, the Government has made a mockery of this by failing to put additional bus capacity in place as we advised them to do.
“Yet again the Government is being “penny wise, but pound foolish” when it comes to both our cost of living and climate crises. They now risk pushing more parents out of work and more school children back into cars.
“I’ll be raising this issue directly with the Minister for Education and demanding she takes urgent action to increase the existing school bus fleet.
"I’ll also be making it clear that Louth & East Meath students have consistently secured concessionary seats in previous years must also be catered for."
Senator Erin McGreehan has also said school transport is not working and the ongoing review of the School Transport Scheme needs to be finalised as soon as possible.
The Louth Senator said:
“It is now an annual tradition of the worst kind that families throughout the country are stressed that their child will not get a ticket. This year we are seeing increased demand for bus places due to the very welcome news by Minister Foley that school bus transport is free. This is welcome and I believe it should not be just for one year."
Senator McGreehan continued: “There is a Review of the School Transport Scheme ongoing in the Department, Submissions were open to members of the public on January 22. This needs to be remedied before next year's intake. Parents and children need certainty on how they are going to be able to get their child to school."
The Fianna Fáil senator added:
“An issue that is arising annually for me is that children who attend a school which has a protestant ethos automatically receive a ticket. Albeit it doesn’t matter if they are protestant or not.
"Then on the alternative if a child who wishes to attend a catholic run school which is not the closest school to them, they will not get a ticket automatically and it goes to a lotto system. There is a right for children to attend any religious school. This should be changed in the new scheme.”
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