The Coach Tourism & Transport Council (CTTC) calls on the Minister for Education to immediately deliver funding to school bus operators for COVID-19 safety provisions. With schools reopening, operators describe the delay as “indefensible” as they continue to wait for “inadequate allowance”.
The CTTC has called on the Minister for Education, Norma Foley, to step in and resolve the funding shortage for COVID-19 safety provisions for school buses, in advance of the reopening of schools from this week. Private bus companies have been offered between €4.50 and €8.50 per day for sanitisation, cleaning and the provision of PPE on their school buses, an amount which the CTTC says is wholly inadequate.
On 27 July 2020, Education Minister Norma Foley announced additional funding of €11.3m to support hygiene, PPE and cleaning requirements on school transport. Since then it has transpired that private bus operators will receive just 50% of this fund, or €5.5m, over the school year of 39 weeks. This is despite the fact that private bus companies now operate 90% of school transport services across the country.
The CTTC, which is the main representative body for the private bus and coach sector, has expressed its dissatisfaction at the proposed payment rate, describing it as “a pittance” to the CEO of Bus Éireann, which is administering the fund. To date, Bus Éireann has refused to increase the allocation.
The CTTC is now calling on the Minister to intervene to address this imbalance in the distribution of funds. Spokesperson for the CTTC, Dominic Hannigan, stated: “One month after Minister Foley’s announcement we are still waiting for a fair distribution of the allocation and for the actual payment of the supports. Businesses are under significant pressure as a result of this pandemic and the inaction by the relevant bodies is only serving to exacerbate their situation. Health and safety is of paramount importance to all CTTC members. Many are finding it difficult to affordably prepare for the reopening of schools next week, while adhering to public health guidelines. The preparations are expensive, with upfront costs being absorbed by them at a time when cash-flow is nil. This delay in payment is indefensible.”
“With some operators already under severe financial pressure there is a risk that the required standards will be too expensive for them, and this will mean they are unable to continue in operation,” Mr. Hannigan concluded.