Written Answers - School Transport.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 670 No. 4

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  489.  Deputy Chris Andrews  Information on Chris Andrews  Zoom on Chris Andrews   asked the Minister for Education and Science  Information on Batt O'Keeffe  Zoom on Batt O'Keeffe   when and the reason the school transport scheme was introduced originally; the amount it cost the Exchequer [1049]in 2005, 2006 and 2007; his views, in view of the fact that car usage has increased since the introduction of the scheme, on whether the scheme should be reviewed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46046/08]

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Science (Deputy Seán Haughey): Information on Seán Haughey  Zoom on Seán Haughey  The school transport scheme was established in the late 1960s. From the outset, the purpose of the scheme was to ensure access to primary and post-primary education for children who, because of where they live, might have difficulty in attending school regularly. The scheme, which is operated by Bus Éireann on my Department’s behalf, currently facilitates the transportation of over 135,000 children, including children with special needs, to primary and post-primary schools each day. The school transport system is a very significant operation involving about 42 million journeys of over 82 million kilometres on 6,000 routes every school year.

Expenditure on school transport in 2005, 2006 and 2007 was €122.157 million, €159.684 million and €172.106 million respectively.

While car usage has increased significantly since the introduction of the school transport scheme, the scheme aims to provide comfortable and safe transport for children travelling to and from school. Measures to ensure the highest standards in this regard include:

In recent years the phasing out of the 3 for 2 seating arrangement on both primary and post-primary services, providing all children with an adult seat each.

The addition of a considerable number of vehicles to address capacity shortfalls arising from the decision to provide each child with an individual seat and the equipping of all dedicated school buses.

Inspection by Bus Eireann using an independent agency to satisfy itself that all buses entering the School Transport Scheme have seat belts fitted to an appropriate standard, agreed with the Department of Transport.

In addition, Bus Éireann has put in place a random vehicle inspection process conducted by a leading independent external expert in this field.

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that proposals for the progressing of the review of the scheme, including catchment boundaries which is included in the Programme for Government are well advanced.

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