Bus Éireann has insisted that private bus operators subcontracted to provide school transport must meet a number of requirements and are subject to vehicle inspections.
The company made the comments yesterday as Jan O’Sullivan, the education minister, defended the safety of school busses following an accident on Monday in which a bus carrying 50 students overturned on a bend outside Fermoy, Co Cork.
Ms O’Sullivan released details to the Irish Examiner about the bus involved in the incident. “The bus was [registered in] 1999. It had passed its safety tests, everything was in order in terms of insurance, in terms of the licence, the NCT and everything. It was all entirely up-to-date,” she said.
“We’re all very thankful that the incident, while it must have been very traumatic for the people involved, there were no serious injuries. Because of the requirement to wear seat belts, it certainly appears that was a significant factor in the fact all the young people came out alive and with only minor injuries.”
Speaking in Wicklow, the minister said the overall fleet is “carefully monitored” and has to be up to standard.
“They have to comply with all of the regulations. We all remember the terrible incident in Kentstown,” Ms O’Sullivan said of the 2005 bus accident which claimed the lives of five schoolgirls.
“This was a 53-seater with 52 students in it. So it complied with every child having a seat. And they’re [the buses] inspected regularly.”
Details of the bus, rented from a private operator, show it was tested and approved roadworthy in April and that it was due for its next test in April of next year.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Bus Éireann said that “comprehensive and onerous obligations” are placed on contractors employed by the company to provide school transport.
Bus Éireann said the companies are required to provide licensing details for its drivers; details of vehicle make and registration number; adult seating capacity; year of manufacture; whether it has seat belts; whether it is wheelchair accessible or not; details of its roadworthiness certificate; PSV licence; and insurance information.
In addition the vehicle must not be older than 20 years.
“Services cannot be subcontracted. A minimum of two checks per route per year are undertaken,” the spokesperson said.
Bus Éireann said it also undertakes random and targeted checking of maintenance standards on school buses used.
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