School bus service ‘bloody ridiculous’

The Department of Education says it’s reviewing the School Transport Scheme as councillors described the current programme as “bloody ridiculous”. The scheme drew widespread criticism at the October meeting of Cavan County Council.

Problems are regularly highlighted with the provision of school transport, particularly as the start of the school year approaches.

Councillor John Paul Feeley (FF) put down a motion calling on the Minister for Education to review it “to ensure that the maximum number of children are brought to their local school on public transport”.

He said the system “seems to be trying to stop people getting on a bus rather than facilitating as many people as possible”.

Cathaoirleach Clifford Kelly (FF) described the scheme as “a total and utter disaster”, with parents being refunded when a bus was deemed to be full, rather than capacity being increased.

Bus Éireann operates the School Transport Scheme on behalf of the Department of Education, with specific requirements for students to be deemed eligible.

The Department says only those with special needs or those “who live far from their nearest primary and post-primary school” will be considered. Primary students must live at least 3.2km from their nearest school with a distance of 4.8km set for post-primary schools.

Tickets cost €100 per primary child and €350 per post-primary with a cap on the price any one household pays.

But problems with the programme are highlighted regularly locally. Councillor Sarah O’Reilly (Aon) claimed 600 students across Cavan, Monaghan and Louth were left without places on buses this year and said the Shercock area appears to have been particularly badly hit.

Restrictions on capacity for buses serving secondary schools were at the root of the problem, she said.

This was backed up by a statement from the Department of Education, which said a limit of 50% is in place on those routes.

It said the restriction is “subject to ongoing review” and consideration will be given to the position over the coming weeks.

The statement, which was issued to The Anglo-Celt, confirms a review of the School Transport Scheme is underway. It’s examining the “broader effectiveness and sustainability” of it and “to ensure that it serves students and their families adequately”.

The current phase of the review is examining the operation of the scheme.