I propose to take Questions Nos. 402 and 403 together.
School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department. In the 2018/2019 school year over 117,500 children, including over 13,000 children with special educational needs, were transported in over 5,000 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres at a cost of over €200m in 2018.
Bus Éireann has confirmed that in relation to vehicle testing standards, all large public service vehicles operating in the state must meet the minimum statutory requirements of the Road Safety Authority’s Commercial Vehicle Roadworthiness test and are subject to roadside inspection by the Authority to ensure that they have a current roadworthiness certificate at the time of roadside inspection. Each vehicle must also have a valid Public Service Vehicle (PSV) licence issued by a PSV Officer of An Garda Síochána following inspection. Both of these legal requirements are verified by Bus Éireann before any vehicle is permitted to be added to the nominated fleet of any contractor seeking to provide services under the School Transport Scheme. In addition to the statutory requirements, Bus Éireann arranges for additional examinations of vehicles operating under the School Transport Scheme – which are both targeted and random. These additional quality assurance checks are carried out by an independent agency on behalf of Bus Éireann.
All operators successfully awarded contracts to operate School Transport Scheme services by Bus Éireann must meet their contractual obligations set out in respect of vehicle safety, safety inspections and maintenance systems.
Bus Éireann has advised that the detailed information requested is not readily available and will involve an amount of administrative time to compile. In this regard, Bus Éireann has been requested to respond directly to the Deputy.