The review of the School Transport Scheme and its recommendations must be published urgently so that parents and school managers can plan ahead for September 2023, according to Fine Gael TD Ciaran Cannon.
Deputy Cannon has also called on parents who have unused school transport tickets to relinquish them so that seats can be freed up on bus routes for students who urgently need to avail of them.
“The School Transport Scheme review commenced in February 2021, and the delay in its publication and recommendations that would improve the service is causing great frustration amongst parents and school managers who are trying to plan ahead for the next school year,” Deputy Cannon said.
“The deadline for applications for school bus tickets was April last year, with the deadline to confirm registration for tickets the following July.
“Cost-of-living measures last year provided free access to those eligible for the school transport programme and benefited 129,000 children who received a school bus ticket.
“However, it led to great challenges due to capacity issues, particularly in rural parts of the country with some children left with no bus seats and delays in the issuing of tickets.
“With the end of the current school year just three months away, it is vital that the review, which is examining eligibility criteria, trends, costs, and cost drivers, as well as overall effectiveness of the scheme, is published without further delay.
“Separately I am aware of many school buses that are operating with numerous empty seats because families booked a ticket last year when school transport fees were suspended. Now with those families choosing not to avail of the service, other families are left scrambling for seats and have been told none are available.
“When Bus Éireann management look at those routes on their computer systems, they can see that every seat has been allocated to a child, when in reality many of those children are not actually availing of a seat.
“There’s nothing that Bus Éireann management can do in that instance, which is why I’m asking parents who have never used the service to give up their ticket for this year. They always have the option of applying for a ticket for next September. It would be a gesture of generosity and goodwill to their neighbours who really need the service.
“Parents who wish to give up unused tickets can do so by simply logging on to the Bus Éireann school transport portal, the same one they used to book their ticket, and cancelling their ticket. They then must return the physical ticket in the post to School Transport Section in their region, details of which can be found here, https://www.buseireann.ie/inner.php?id=256
“If we get even a few cancellations, we can free up badly needed seats for families who urgently need to access the service”, Deputy Cannon concluded.