School Transport in 2015 Had 35% Spare Capacity and Cost €173 Million to Run

By Seamus Whelehan

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A special report by the controller and auditor general into the provision of school transport has revealed the service costs €173 million - almost €1million per school day to operate in 2015.
The report made to the Dáil last week also revealed the department paid Bus Éireann €149 million net of €14 million collected from fee paying pupils by the national bus operator for a service that operated with a 35% spare capacity.
The remaining €24 million primarily relates to special needs escorts and transport grants.
The average cost of transporting a pupil amounted to €1,800 with just 8.4% of the scheme being recouped by fare paying pupils.
Despite the agreement between the government and the bus network remaining unchanged for 40 years Bus Éireann have accumulated a surplus of €11.2 million up to the end of 2015.
The dedicated school transport bus fleet (excluding taxis and pupils who avail of scheduled Bus Éireann / CIE services) had a carrying capacity of 163,000 seats in 2015, a similar carrying capacity existed in 2007.
The number of eligible pupils carried on the dedicated bus fleet dropped from 117,000 in 2007 to just 85,000 in 2015.
Some of the spare seats were used by pupils who had concessionary tickets. However there is still significant estimated spare capacity of 35% when all the pupils are accounted for.
The report states that the decline in the number of users has not been met with similar decline in overall costs.
The department attributed this in part to increased demand for school transport by pupils with special educational needs.

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