Dáil Éireann - Volume 621 - 14 June, 2006

Written Answers. - School Transport.

[1318] Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Science when the school transport service will be made available to students who were denied access to the bus since 24 April 2006 at a school (details supplied) in County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22877/06]

  Miss de Valera: The pupils in question were availing of transport on a concessionary fare-paying basis under a three for two seating arrangement. However, under Regulations recently made by the Minister for Transport, seat belts must be used in buses, where fitted, which means that the three for two seating arrangement no longer applies on school buses fitted with seat belts.

Bus Éireann has put arrangements in place to accommodate the children on a one seat per child basis on both buses to the school in question. Priority is being afforded to eligible pupils but some of those who applied for concessionary transport can be accommodated. However, the demand for concessionary transport exceeds the number of spare seats available.

I should point out that concessionary transport is not guaranteed. Pupils may only avail of concessionary transport if spare seats are available on school buses and this is determined on a term-to-term basis by reference to those who are fully eligible for transport under the terms of the school transport scheme.

Significant investment has been made by the Government to address capacity shortfalls arising from the phasing out of the three for two seating arrangement on school buses. A programme for Bus Éireann to acquire a number of new and modern second-hand buses is well advanced. In addition, Bus Éireann has hired-in over 220 additional vehicles from the private sector and the general situation is being kept under review.