School bus operators are to receive a €5.3m fuel subsidy covering the first six months of the year, to help meet rising energy costs.
Announcing the contribution, Education Minister Norma Foley said it would go “some way to address the impact of the increased cost of fuel for Quarter 1 and Quarter 2 of 2022.”
Ms Foley said it was a temporary measure and the position with regard to fuel costs would be kept under review.
About 5,800 vehicles operated by private operators, both buses and taxis, provide school transport under contract to Bus Éireann.
The scheme cost more that €289m in 2021.
Payment of the contribution followed talks involving the Department of Education and other departments including the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.
In the current school year, more than 121,400 children, including over 15,500 children with special educational needs, are transported on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools.
The sharp increase in fuel costs led to warnings from the sector that services could not continue to operate on the pre-agreed rates.
As fuel costs started surging earlier this year, the Coach Tourism and Transport Council of Ireland (CTTC) warned that bus operators would hand back their contracts if the Government did not provide more financial support.
Agreement on the contribution followed talks involving the Department of Education and other departments including the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.
Feargal Barton, who chairs the CCTC’s school transport committee, said the funding would “act as a lifeline for many operators currently struggling to service their school transport routes”.
He welcomed the recognition of the role played by the sector, adding that with the prospect of further fuel, parts and wage inflation, operators would continue to work in a difficult environment.
Mr Barton said in their discussions with government they had also called for reduction in VAT as well as fuel variation clauses to be included in future contracts.
He said such a clause would provide a mechanism for operators “to continue serving the millions of students and their families without the fear of any future unforeseen variations in the cost of fuel”.