Dáil Éireann - Volume 524 - 25 October, 2000
Written Answers. - School Transport.
Dr. O'Hanlon Dr. O'Hanlon
 284. Dr. O'Hanlon asked the Minister for Education and Science if there are plans to integrate transport in rural areas provided for school transport, health board other than acute ambulance transport, free travel for the elderly and buses and minibuses provided to voluntary organisations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23494/00]
Dr. Woods Dr. Woods
Minister for Education and Science (Dr. Woods): My Department's responsibility is to ensure that the school transport scheme operates in an efficient and cost effective manner. It primarily operates a basic service countrywide, for the most part in rural areas. There are at present no plans to use school buses for other purposes during the day. I am aware of at least one area in which this approach is taken in the community. I would be very happy if similar arrangements could be made in other communities and I would be anxious to be of assistance where possible.
To expand the scheme generally to support rural community transport services would raise some practical difficulties. A high proportion of the vehicles used for school transport are contracted by Bus Éireann from private operators. The use of these buses, after they have completed their school contracts, would be a matter for the private operators. The vehicles deployed by Bus Éireann are operated by part-time employees who are contracted to do school work only. In addition, school buses operate for a maximum of 183 days per year. These current limitations on the operation of school buses would have to be expanded greatly, and at considerable expense, to diversify into other community services.
The size and type of vehicle used for school transport is determined by the number of eligible pupils offering for transport and its legal carrying capacity. If public passengers were permitted to avail of transport on such services, these arrangements would have to be reviewed.
Individual vehicles are generally required to operate more than one service and this frequently means that some pupils have to make an early start in the mornings and to wait for some time in the evenings. This has always been a feature of the services throughout the country. This could give rise to problems for other potential users who might see this as of very limited benefit.
Dáil Éireann 524 Written Answers. School Transport.