Drivers may quit school bus routes over rising fuel costs

CHILDREN using school buses may be left high and dry due to rising fuel costs, bus owners warned yesterday.

According to private bus operators, the rocketing price of diesel means that many drivers are on the verge of pulling out of school bus routes.

The Private Association of Motor Bus Owners (PAMBO) wrote to the Department of Education and Science two months ago but has yet to be granted a meeting on the issue.

PAMBO general manager Mike Goodliffe said bus drivers are very worried about costs.

“Since Easter I must have been contacted by about 150, 160 operators really concerned about the soaring price of diesel. A lot of operators are now running at a loss in providing school transport,” he said.

Mr Goodliffe said many members “will not be able to continue providing school transport” unless something is done about the price of diesel or the rates paid to run the service.

It’s estimated that 82% of school buses come from the private sector.

According to the Department of Education and Science, discussions are ongoing with Bus Éireann on the issue of costs and a response will be issued to PAMBO in due course.

Fine Gael school transport spokesman Frank Feighan TD urged the minister for education to meet with private bus operators working the school routes.

“The sky-rocketing price of fuel is affecting the entire economy and now there are serious concerns that some school buses will not be operating come September,” he said yesterday. “If even just a fraction of these operators ceased running school bus routes, the effects on pupils, parents and schools would be catastrophic.” Mr Feighan said his party’s transport spokesman Fergus O’Dowd had raised the issue in the Dáil many times.

“It is simply not good enough that the minister and his department have not met with the bus drivers yet and I urge him to do so as soon as possible,” he said.

Irish Small and Medium Enterprise Association (ISME) chief executive Mark Fielding said on average the exchequer receives more than half of the end price of petrol and diesel in excise duties and VAT.

“Any increase in the cost of oil products directly benefits the Government through a parallel increase in tax receipts,” he said, calling on the Government to ringfence, from June 1, any additional revenues received from duties due to increasing oil costs.


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