05 Oct 2022

Call for "urgent and immediate" action to tackle school bus "fiasco" in Louth

Call for "urgent and immediate" action to tackle school bus "fiasco" in Louth

"Urgent and immediate" action is needed to help families with the school transport "fiasco", according to Dundalk TD Ruairí Ó Murchú, who says the problem is particularly acute in rural areas of Louth.

The Sinn Féin TD says he has been contacted by dozens of parents who are ‘highly stressed and concerned’ about the lack of school transport for their secondary school-going children.

And while there are problems every year with pockets of the school transport system, Deputy Ó Murchú says the start of the 2022 academic year is "off the scale bad".

He said "record numbers" of students have been refused a seat on school buses in places like Annagassan, Kilsaran and Castlebellingham.

He said the time has come for the Minister for Education Norma Foley to "urgently intervene" and to work with Transport Minister Eamon Ryan to "expand capacity by doing whatever needs to be done like providing more services and looking at the criteria for tickets".

It is, he said, "also an environmental issue because of the need to take as many cars off the school run as possible".

Deputy Ó Murchú said the blame for the crisis is "squarely at the door of the government".

He said: "The government has failed to expand the school transport scheme, while eliminating fares and this is causing huge problems for families in Louth.

"The removal of fares has resulted in unprecedented numbers applying for the scheme, but because of the strict criteria in place, thousands of children who are categorised as ‘concessionary’ will now be refused a seat.

"To make matters worse, many of those who are being refused have used the scheme for years and this leaves their parents in a very difficult position, as they cannot do the school run due to work commitments and totally depend on the school bus.

"Families who expected to realise savings of €500 now look set, instead, to be heaped with additional costs as they try to find alternatives.

"It should have been a good news story, but instead it has turned into a huge nightmare.

"On top of that, Bus Éireann has been inundated with calls from parents desperate to get a seat and they are having problems getting back to people, but the responsibility for adding extra capacity lies solely with the Minister for Education.

"Minister should instruct Bus Éireann to look within its own and the private bus sector’s resources to expand capacity to ensure that no child is left without a seat.

"The opportunity exists to transform the school commute and to make this a really positive story, but the minister has to act now."

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