Social Democrats TD for Wicklow, Deputy Jennifer Whitmore has welcomed progress being made on some of the outstanding School Transport routes across the county.
Whitmore made the comments following a meeting with the Regional Transport Manager responsible for the Wicklow school service.
Whitmore said “It was welcome news to hear that the B9200 route was one of the latest routes to get back up and running and I know parents are relieved that this route has now finally been resolved. The impact that the non-operation of this service had on parents and students cannot be understated.
“Unfortunately, there are still a number of routes outstanding, and which are not currently operating. Bus Eireann have assured me however that they are working very hard on getting the remaining routes operational as soon as is possible with one of the main difficulties they are facing being the recruitment of drivers.”
Whitmore continues “While this is an issue I see in my office every year, this year was particularly bad. The same problems are raised time and again with routes being cancelled or capacity issues arising and leaving children stranded at the side of the road and families with no way to get their kids to school at the last minute. Every year the lack of trained and certified drivers is mentioned as a reason. The Government now have the benefit of hindsight and sufficient time to put measures in place to make sure that there are enough drivers for every school route next year. It can be as simple as putting a pathway in place to make sure drivers are trained and certified and ready to go by September 2024.”
“The start of term for 2023 was particularly chaotic and I am still in contact with parents who have had to arrange their own transport for their children to get to school. I welcome the introduction of the interim grant to help these parents get their children to school but I have some serious reservations about the administration of it. Retrospective payment to these parents is not acceptable. If bus routes are cancelled in future, upfront payment are a must so that parents who are struggling financially are not at a disadvantage and their children can get to school.”
“I will continue to prioritise school bus transport for the children of Wicklow until all bus routes are operational again. I will also continue to raise this issue so that we are not in the same situation next year. The Government have time to rectify the situation and avert the same crisis occurring next year, but they must act now,” concludes Whitmore