For Written Answer on : 31/05/2023
Question Number(s): 74 Question Reference(s): 26599/23
Asked by: David Stanton T.D.
To ask the Minister for Education further to Parliamentary Question No. 303 of 9 May 2023, the estimated extra cost to her Department of putting in place a 50+ seater bus service to transport second-level students on a route (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter.
(Details Supplied) Cobh to Carrigtwohill, Co. Cork
The School Transport Scheme is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department of Education. In the current school year, over 147,900 children, including over 18,000 children with special educational needs, are transported on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country.
In addition, school transport scheme services are being provided in the current school year for over 3,800 children who have arrived to Ireland from Ukraine.
The total cost of the scheme in 2022 was €338.9m.
Children are eligible for transport at primary level where they reside not less than 3.2 kilometres from and are attending their nearest national school, and at post primary level where they reside not less than 4.8 kilometres from and are attending their nearest post primary school/education centre as determined by the department/Bus Éireann, having regard to ethos and language.
Children who are eligible for school transport and who have completed the application process on time are now accommodated on school transport services where such services are in operation for the 2022/2023 school year.
Children who are not eligible for school transport, but who completed the application process on time, will be considered for spare seats that may exist after eligible children have been facilitated; such seats are referred to as concessionary seats.
Because of the nature of concessionary transport for non-eligible children and the priority of providing places for eligible children, there may be an excess of demand over supply for concessionary places, in these cases Bus Éireann will allocate tickets for spare seats using an agreed selection process.
Bus Éireann has advised that the pupils referred to by the Deputy in this case are not eligible under the School Transport Scheme as they are not attending their closest school. Bus Éireann further advised that a new service cannot be established as there is currently an insufficient number of eligible applications from pupils residing in the distinct locality.
Families can apply for online at: buseireann.ie/schooltransport. The closing date for new applications in respect of the 2023/2024 school year was 28th April 2023 and the closing date for payment for all applicants is 9th June 2023. Once the payment closing date has passed, Bus Éireann will review applications and plan routes during the summer months for the upcoming school year. Bus Éireann is obliged to tender all works, goods and services to be provided by external suppliers in line with national and EU procurement legislation and this includes services provided by contractors under the School Transport Scheme. Bus Eireann can not advise on the costs associated with a service until that service has been successfully tendered in line with procurement legislation.