September 24, 2020
Minister uninterested about thousands excluded from school bus transport – Darren O’Rourke TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Transport, Darren O’Rourke TD, has said he “holds out no hope” that the Minister Eamon Ryan is prepared to address the issues outstanding around the school bus transport system caused by the new Covid19 guidelines.
Deputy O’Rourke this morning challenged the Minister for Transport in the Dáil on the issues, including the fact that at least 6,120 fewer children have been accommodated this year compared to last.
Speaking today, the Sinn Féin TD for Meath East said:
“This morning at Ministerial Questions I took the opportunity to raise the plight of many families in Meath and beyond regarding unresolved problems in the school bus transport system.
“I told Transport Minister Eamon Ryan that thousands of families have been left with no transport options for their children and that the state authorities have done nothing to remedy this. Previous Ministerial responses to me confirmed that at least 6,120 fewer children have been accommodated on school transport this year compared to last. Demand has remained. Supply has disappeared.
“For those communities who were never serviced by the school transport scheme, they established their own privately funded school bus routes over the years, but the new Covid restrictions have now made these routes unsustainable.
“Many parents were relying on the Local Link / Flexibus network, but with the new restrictions they were told these buses wouldn’t run and the National Transport Authority washed their hands of the issue saying the NTA doesn’t do school transport. This is the case for 33 children in Ratoath and Skryne in Co. Meath.
“In addition, thousands of other children, who would normally secure a place on buses on the concessionary ticket scheme, have also been left without a place this year.
“Covid-19 is a factor, but Government’s complete failure to plan, to prepare and to deliver are a larger factor. The HPSC were consulted about bus loading, for example, but NPHET weren’t. That tells you everything.
“As a result, a huge additional burden has been placed on families who are trying to juggle work, family life and other commitments at this challenging time and they are getting ignored by the system.
“It’s clear the school transport system needs an overhaul to ensure those children who want a place on a school bus, to whatever school they attend, can get one. But in the short term, action needs to be taken immediately to get these kids on school buses from this month on, for both eligible and concessionary applicants.
“It was painfully clear from Minister Ryan’s response this morning in the Dáil that these concerns are falling on deaf ears.
“He is the Minister for Transport and he simply cannot wash his hands of this mess, which is of this government’s own making.”

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