Thursday, 28 November 2019
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
Tim Lombard (Fine Gael)
I would like to raise an important issue in the House this afternoon. We need to have a debate with the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy McHugh, and probably the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, on what their priorities are for next year's school transportation scheme. I became involved in this issue last September and October, when we had children and their parents in distress with waiting for tickets and buses not being available. It is a huge issue for rural Ireland. More than 100,000 children use the school transportation scheme every year and 30,000 of them are waiting on tickets, depending on the capacity of buses.
This entire matter has changed. We are talking about a new era of promoting public transport and the ability to have a carbon-neutral society. Two diesel cars emit the same amount of carbon as one school bus. We have to look at this differently and put a real scheme in place to ensure we have the capabilities and the capacity to take the children who are looking to go on school buses. This debate has to happen now. I do not want us to have a scenario where next summer we will be looking to try to find solutions. The solutions to the problems need to be found now. The planning needs to start now. We need to solve all the issues with the school transportation scheme because we are promoting a society where parents have the ability to work and engage in society but if they are tied to having to take their kids to school every morning and collect them every evening and everything pertaining to that, it makes it hard for rural dwellers to survive. The debate needs to start now. That policy change needs to happen and we need to start to have a focus on how we will ensure we get more kids onto buses. If it does not, we will have the same tsunami next August as we had last August.