The Coach Tourism & Transport Council (CTTC) has expressed utter dismay regarding the inadequate allowance granted by Bus Eireann for COVID-19 provisions for school buses as students get ready to return to school in a matter of weeks. Private bus companies have been offered between €4.50 and €8.50 per day by Bus Eireann for enhanced santisation, cleaning and the provision of PPE on school buses across all routes.
On 27 July, 2020, the Minister for Education & Skills, Norma Foley TD announced in a statement: “Additional funding of €11.3 million has been provided as part of the package today to support hygiene, PPE and cleaning requirements.” It is estimated that private bus operators will receive approximately €5.5 million cumulatively from this fund over the school period of 39 weeks. Private bus companies operate 90% of Bus Eireann licensed school routes across the country.
The CTTC has called on Bus Eireann to enter into talks with them at their earliest possible convenience in order to resolve these urgent issues pertaining to health and safety which, to date, it has refused to do.
Commenting on the serous issue, Chairman of the CTTC, John Halpenny, said: “We welcome the recognition by Government that extensive measures will have to be put in place in order to uphold public health requirements and to ensure the safety of all school-going passengers and our employees. However, we are surprised and bemused by the limited financial assistance being proffered by Bus Eireann in order to address the considerable extra expense that will be incurred in ensuring public health standards.”
“The amount granted is totally unsatisfactory in circumstances where it falls far short of the costs expected to be incurred. Offering as little as €4.50 a day to operators to deep clean and sanitise school buses, and provide PPE fails to recognise the considerable expense our members will have to go to.”
“Operators are desperate to get back in motion again after a long lay-off and they are fully committed to upholding the highest possible safety standards but we have to face the reality. Every operator is under severe financial pressure and this pitiful allowance serves to only exploit their precarious position. We have made our concerns known to Bus Eireann which regretfully has fallen on deaf ears and this is most disappointing when safety is at the core of the issue.”
John concluded by saying that he hopes “this will not cause disruption to the school transportation system.”