Many members of the CTTC operate school transport services through a private arrangement with parents or schools.
Many members also operate services in the School Transport Scheme that is operated by Bus Eireann on behalf of the Department of Education and Skills. Around 81% of the vehicles in the State's School Transport Scheme are provided by private bus and coach operators.
The CTTC represents members' interests in both circumstances, and has grave reservations about the School Transport Scheme as operated by Bus Eireann.
Private bus operators who participate in this Scheme are not entitled to collective bargaining or representation by its representative organisation. We see this 'divide and conquer' approach as damaging to both our members' interests, but also the long-term benefit of the children who use the Scheme.
Currently, Bus Eireann receive around €26m per year to administer the Scheme. We believe the real cost of administering such a scheme should be around €12m. This suggests that around €14m per year that is allocated to School Transport is actually used for other activities at Bus Eireann.
To put this in context: the total amount collected from parents in School Transport fares is around €8.4m. Our analysis suggests if every euro that is allocated to School Transport was actually spent on School Transport, it would allow every child in the Scheme to travel for free. And there would still be change.
In recent years more than 20,000 children have dropped out of the School Transport Scheme because of a steady rise School Transport fees in recent years. That number is expected to increase substantially this autumn (2011) when the most recent fare hikes and service cutbacks are felt around the country.
We believe the net effect of the fare hikes and cutbacks that are being imposed by Government will be around 30,000 extra car journeys every day, which is an affront to the State's policies to reduce carbon emissions and road fatalities.
The CTTC has several positions that relate to School Transport:
1. The CTTC believes the contract to manage the School Transport Scheme should be awarded to the National Transport Authority (NTA), or some other Stage agency that does not own a fleet, and so has less incentive and opportunity to divert School Transport funds into other activities.
2. Private bus and coach operators, who provide 81% of the vehicles in the Scheme, should be permitted collective bargaining privilages.
3. The Comptroller and Auditor General should conduct an investigation into the use of School Transport funds by Bus Eireann.