School Transport Frustrations are to Continue Indefinitely according to Tipperary TD Michael Lowry.
The Thurles based TD raised the matter again with the Department of Education, who announced in July last that it was waiving fees for all students for the coming school year as part of a wider package of cost of living measures.
This resulted in 44,299 new applications in addition to the number already using school buses.
As part of the Budget earlier this week additional funding has been approved for the scheme which will allow Department officials, in consultation with Bus Éireann, to consider and evaluate where temporary additional capacity may be available.
The Department says that ‘the initial focus will be where families applied on time and who previously held concessionary tickets, to alleviate the impact of the increased demands on the scheme for those families.”
The Department accepts that there are huge difficulties in sourcing buses and drivers.
Deputy Lowry says such issues should have been explored before the Minister for Education made the “grandiose gesture” of opening up the School Transport system.
The issue of those aged over 70 being prevented from Driving School busses despite the fact that they are permitted to drive tour buses and State vehicles is “ridiculous” according to Deputy Lowry.
The School Transport system was raised in the Dail by Tipperary TD Mattie McGrath yesterday – he described it as chaos. The Dail heard that some ticket holders don’t use tickets they have while others are waiting on a ticket making a difficult situation for drivers. Deputy McGrath highlighted that there are many children especially some with additional needs waiting on Tickets. The responding, Minister Josepha Madigan, told the Dáil that the Minister for Education was working extremely hard on the issue of providing tickets for children and that those with additional needs are prioritised as are applications for concessionary tickets and first time applications.
Deputy McGrath also sought action on a government promise to raise the retirement age for drivers of school buses provided they have a medical certificate that they are fit for such work.
At present those aged over 70 cannot be employed to drive a school bus under Bus Eireann’s policy.
They can however continue to drive buses for private operators once certified as medically fit.
The Minister failed to make any response on the question regarding drivers.