Thursday, 17 December 2020
Department of Education and Skills
402. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if school bus capacity will be increased without further delay in light of the large number of students unable to access transport at present due to a much reduced capacity in the 2020-21 school year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44510/20]
School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department of Education. In the 2019/20 school year over 120,000 children, including over 14,200 children with special educational needs, were transported in over 5,000 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres at a cost of over €219m in 2019.
The purpose of my Department's School Transport Scheme is, having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of children who reside remote from their nearest school.
All children who are eligible for school transport and who completed the application and payment process on time have been accommodated on school transport services for the 2020/21 school year where such services are in operation. The closing date for payment for the 2020/2021 school year was Tuesday 4th August 2020.
Children who are not eligible for school transport may apply for transport on a concessionary basis only and will be facilitated where spare seats are available after eligible children have been accommodated. Where the number of ineligible children exceeds the number of spare seats available Bus Éireann allocates tickets for the spare seats using an agreed selection process.
Following updated health advice from NPHET on 18th August, which was that post-primary services are required to operate using 50% of passenger capacity, Government has agreed to provide the necessary funding to ensure that full implementation of this public health recommendation is achieved as quickly as possible on all post-primary services. As the additional capacity is rolled out, where spare capacity is created, further tickets will be allocated to those children eligible for the scheme who have paid late and for other applicants seeking concessionary tickets.