No eligible pupils on nearly 100 school buses
Almost 100 school bus routes are operating without catering for a single eligible child, the Irish Independent can reveal.
The rules governing the School Transport Scheme are being widely flouted despite Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe insisting he won't provide funding to ensure every child is given a seat.
The Irish Independent reported this week how thousands of parents are still anxiously waiting to hear whether their child will get a bus place for the new term. Mr Donohoe's department has railed against the idea of providing an extra €4m for the scheme, even though Minister of State John Halligan said it is "creaking at the seams".
Children qualify automatically if they live 3.2km from their nearest primary school, or 4.8km from a secondary school. More than 30,000 have applied for 'concessionary' tickets, whereby they can get a seat once all pupils who automatically qualify for a place are allocated a ticket.
Concessionary tickets are issued on condition that they do not cost the State any money. This means additional or larger vehicles will not be introduced to carry children who are not automatically eligible for school transport.
But a review of the scheme by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform shows the rules were widely ignored last year anyway, with 93 routes not having a single eligible pupil on board.
"This suggests that concessionary pupils are leading to additional costs to the State. There are at least 16 routes with additional costs, with daily costs of €3,183 noted," the report states.
The review also found that rules governing the number of eligible pupils required to justify a bus service are also being overlooked.