No room on the school bus for losers of Limerick ticket lottery

PARENTS whose children have to travel to school in Pallaskenry by bus were furious to be told there is no room at the inn for yet another year.

Michael and Christina Hayes’ daughters, Roisin and Ciara, are starting into Junior and Leaving Certificate exam years in September and are preparing themselves for another year of getting up at 6am and walking two miles in all kinds of weather to get to school.

Their father, Michael, told the Limerick Post that this is not the first time the family, who live in Askeaton, have been told they are not getting tickets to ride the school bus.

“There are a dozen other families in the same boat,” the frustrated father said.

“There are a certain number of tickets allocated and then there is a lottery for everyone else who applies.”

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Michael said that there have been problems with tickets for six years now, but the issue has been exacerbated since it was announced that all school bus transport would be free.

“We paid €600 for two bus tickets for the girls last year. The tickets didn’t arrive in September but they were using the bus for three weeks before we were told there were no tickets allocated to them.

“Once the bus driver was informed of that, he couldn’t let them on the bus. It wasn’t even that there weren’t seats for them – they had been on the bus for three weeks already. We eventually got our money back, but the money wasn’t the issue.”

“We can’t drive them to school – I work in Glin, so we had to buy tickets for them for the ordinary public bus and that cost €500.

“They have to get up at 6am, but the bus doesn’t stop near the school so they have walk a mile after they get off and a mile back again in every weather to come home.

“We went to a parent teacher meeting where the teachers told us they’re very tired at school and it’s no wonder with what they have to do to get there.”

Michael says he and other parents have spoken with the bus contractor, who can do nothing without being given the go-ahead by Bus Eireann.

“I’ve tried contacting them by phone, by email, every way, but you can’t speak to anyone who can make a decision,” said Michael.

“It’s not difficult, we need a bigger bus.”

In response to a query on the issue by the Limerick Post, a Bus Eireann spokeswoman said that “under the terms of the school transport scheme, children are eligible for transport 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 not eligible for school transport may apply for transport where spare seats are available after eligible children have been accommodated, this is referred to as ‘concessionary transport’. 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.”

The spokeswoman said that a “review of the School Transport Scheme is currently underway by the Department of Education”.