School bus plans a ‘shambles’ for Limerick families

Limerick Fianna Fáil TD Willie O'Dea

SECONDARY school students from the northside of Limerick City have not yet been offered a school bus place to enable them to attend the new Educate Together Secondary School at Groody Road, Castletroy, despite previous commitments.

And other families across Limerick have been left with no school bus places with just days to go until the new term.

Deputy Willie O’Dea revealed to the Limerick Post this week that he has been contacted by parents of at least a dozen pupils who feel they have been left in the dark by the school and Bus Éireann regarding school transport for their children.

“These secondary school pupils had previously attended the school when it was located at the old Salesians Secondary School building in Fernbank, but now as the school is moving to a purpose built school at Groody Road, Castletroy on September 12, they require transport to the new school,” he explained.

“All these parents filled out online forms applying for a school bus service and according to the parents, the silence and lack of communication to date from Bus Éireann has been deafening and this is leaving them in limbo and causing immense stress to parents.”

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The Limerick politician has made representations to Bus Éireann about the matter and informed him that they hadn’t received all the details required from the school.

“However, the Principal Eoin Shinners has contacted my office to advise that all required information has been sent to Bus Éireann and that Bus Éireann should be in touch directly with pupils who applied for bus tickets”.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin Senator Paul Gavan has called the government’s plan a “shambles”, as Limerick families are left without school transport just days before school starts back.

“In recent days families have contacted me for assistance after being told at the last minute that their child has no place on the school bus,” Senator Gavan revealed.

“Families in Limerick are facing school transport chaos because the government have failed to plan. Significant numbers of school children are due to be back in the classroom in a matter of days but their parents have been told their child no longer has a place on the school bus despite paying for it earlier this year.”

“In a number of cases children from the Castleconnell area who previously had a pass on a private school bus now find they have no place on a replacement Bus Eireann school bus. They only had found out that his was the case late last week.”

“This shambles is placing huge pressure on families who are now left in the lurch with just days to find a solution.”

In response, Bus Éireann said in a statement that it has now issued school transport tickets to 130,000 students travelling on mainstream services. Ninety nine per cent of tickets, it revealed, have now issued to those who applied and paid on time — 23,000 more tickets issued to date this year, compared with the same time last year.

“Driver shortages are being experienced in many sectors of the economy and throughout the country.

“In recent weeks, Bus Éireann issued tickets for mainstream school transport on bus services that had already been secured. Unfortunately, in recent days, a number of difficulties have arisen in some localities with a small number of contracted services. Very regrettably, in a small number of specific locations contractors have advised us that it has not yet been possible to provide vehicles / drivers in time for the start of the school year.”

“While the situation is dynamic with solutions being found, currently this represents approximately two per cent vehicles operating mainstream school transport services. Bus Éireann has contacted affected families directly and will maintain communications with them.”

Ireland’s national bus company says that in the event that this period is unavoidably extended beyond the end of this week, further contact will be made with the families affected by Friday September 1.

“This will be to ensure that an interim arrangement to assist with the cost of alternative arrangements for the families affected is accessible to those who need it. The Department of Education is currently in the process of establishing an ‘Exceptional No Service Interim Grant’ which, will be based on the number of days children attend school and will be made available to the families.”

“The grant is only available to the small number of families who have already received a school transport ticket from Bus Éireann, and where difficulties have meant that transport will not be in place for the start of the school year on 28th August. Bus Éireann have contacted these families directly. Families do not need to make an application for the exceptional payment, those who have been issued a ticket, and do not have a service in place will be contacted after September 1, 2023.”

“Work continues to resolve this matter and we are committed to providing transport to these students as quickly as is possible.”