Sinn Féin spokesperson on Transport, Darren O’Rourke TD, has said inaction from the government on the school transport system has left one in four applicants without a seat on the bus this year.
The Meath East TD says new figures released to him in response to a parliamentary question confirm that despite Covid-19, there have never been more applications for school bus transport, but there have also never been more refusals.
Teachta O’Rourke said;
“Figures I’ve received from the Department of Education show that while 97,644 tickets for school transport have been issued this year, this falls well short of the 130,144 applications.
“This has left a shortfall of 32,500 seats in the school transport system, meaning one in four students have not gotten a place on their school bus this year.
“Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, demand for school bus transport is up year-on-year, but the supply from the state has not kept up with this demand, in fact it has reduced. In 2019, for example, 104,034 tickets were made available to 128,580 applicants.
“We should not be having this annual struggle for places each year. It’s not fair on families or students. School transport is a vital service, and it needs to be properly resourced.
“This year’s shortfall has caused serious disruption for parents and working families who rely on the school buses to ferry kids to and from school.
“It’s particularly acute in rural Ireland where cycling and walking simply aren’t options given the distance and safety issues on rural roads, and because neighbours cannot share lifts as they normally would due to Covid-19.
“While public transport changed to 50% occupancy almost immediately, the government waited until late August before doing anything about the school transport network.
“This caused chaos and confusion in the first weeks of term. Many parents are still trying to secure a seat on their local bus for their child.
“It’s clear the school transport system needs a complete 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, for both eligible and concessionary applicants.
“The capacity issues in the system are causing huge problems for families, and parents and students cannot afford any more delays in this area.”