Students using the A5 bus service to the community school in Shercock were left stranded last Wednesday because of driver shortages in Bus Eireann. In the days prior, the regular driver informed those on board that he was taking leave for a number of days.
However, Bus Eireann indicated to students later that week, that the service was being suspended for the foreseeable future due to the driver shortage in the industry. Tom from Shercock whose son uses the school bus told the Joe Finnegan Show this morning that parents are now "working together" in an effort to get local children to school.
He added, that while the situation is not ideal, more needs to be done by Bus Eireann to recruit drivers for its services. "There needs to be a bus service that's fit for purpose for all school children," continued Tom. "What part of the country they are in or how far away the are from the school needs to be provided for.
"I drive to Dublin at least once a week and driving through the different towns I see a massive amount of cars sitting outside schools at a time when we need to get cars off the road. Therefore, a bus service is a must." In a statement, Bus Eireann said difficulties have arisen in some locations in Co Cavan with a small number of contracted services.
"These were services where drivers were originally secured and tickets issued, however, at the last-minute contractors have advised us that it has not yet been possible to provide a service in time for the new school year," a spokesperson continued.
"This is against a backdrop of driver shortages being experienced in many sectors of the economy throughout the country. These services are not cancelled, and the Bus Éireann School Transport team is working intensively to ensure that transport arrangements are put in place as soon as possible.
"Bus Éireann continues to recruit contractors to the scheme and are making steady and regular progress in resolving routes. We would like to apologise to families affected but advise that our local school transport office in Dundalk is continuing to try and source transport and communication is ongoing between the local school transport office and the families affected."
Meanwhile, the company highlighted that the Department of Education has established an 'Exceptional No Service Interim Grant' to assist with the cost of private transport arrangements families may have to put in place until their service begins.
It says the payment is calculated from the date of application for a transport service and is based on the number of days the child attends school. "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 are being contacted directly by the Department of Education with full details of this exceptional payment," the spokesperson added.
"Bus Éireann has a dedicated customer care call centre to assist families specifically with School Transport queries." Families with queries can contact the call centre on: LoCall 0818 919 910. Operating hours are usually 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday. Families can also submit queries via the ‘contact form’ which can be found on our website (buseireann.ie/schooltransport).
Bus Eireann added: "The retirement age for school bus drivers has been set by Bus Éireann at 70 years of age, which also applies to road passenger services. Our decision to operate the scheme with drivers up to age 70 is grounded in the best safe interests of the young children, our drivers and other road users."