Dáil Éireann - Volume 547 - 31 January, 2002

Written Answers. - School Transport.

  41. Mr. Spring asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of buses in the school bus fleet which are less than five years old; the numbers between five and ten years old; the numbers between ten and 15 years old; the numbers between 15 and 20 years old; the numbers which are over 20 years old; his views on the roadworthiness and safety of these vehicles; the procedures in place to assess and monitor these vehicles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2771/02]

  Minister for Education and Science (Dr. Woods): Details of the number of school buses in the age categories outlined by the Deputy have been requested from Bus Éireann. The information will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as it is available. Safety on school transport is of paramount importance to my Department and [983] Bus Éireann, who operate the scheme on behalf of my Department.

  All vehicles operating under the school transport scheme are required to meet the statutory regulations as laid down by the Department of the Environment and Local Government. Where vehicles have more than eight adult seats and are more than one year old, they are required to pass that Department's annual roadworthiness test. The test is carried out as directed by the Department of the Environment and Local Government, in test centres authorised by that Department. Only buses that have passed this test are used in school transport operations. Bus Éireann carry out regular checks to ensure that certification with regard to roadworthiness is up to date.

  Contractors employed by Bus Éireann to provide services under the school transport scheme must satisfy strict criteria and must hold a road passenger operator's licence. Vehicles nominated for use under the scheme must be suitable for the conveyance of school children and must have complete and current documentation, including proof of insurance cover, in respect of both buses and drivers as required by law. The vehicles have to be kept and maintained in a safe and roadworthy condition and to comply in all respects with the Road Traffic Acts.

  Bus Éireann's policy of continuous fleet replacement facilitates the improvement of the quality of vehicles used in the operation of the school transport scheme, and provides a better standard of service for pupils availing of school transport. As part of their ongoing policy of improving the age and condition of the school bus fleet, Bus Éireann introduced a significant number of replacement vehicles in 2001.