Thursday, 24 September 2020

Questions (13)

Paul Murphy


13. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Transport if he has discussed with parents affected by the removal by Dublin Bus of a dedicated bus service for a school (details supplied) for students coming from Blessington, County Wicklow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25912/20]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

It is my understanding that the decision by Dublin Bus to withdraw from the provision of bus service from Blessington, County Wicklow to St. MacDara's in Templeogue was taken following a strategic evaluation of this and other similar routes over the last two years. The decision was taken by Dublin Bus in June of this year to cancel its legacy contracts with a number of private bus operators for the provision of dedicated school bus services.

I understand that the decision was arrived at after careful deliberation and based on a number of factors including -

- Availability of alternative Public Service Obligation (PSO) network services in the Dublin area, and in the vicinity of the areas of Tallaght, Ballinteer and Greenhills;

- Low levels of passenger demand on some contracted services;

- Value for money for the delivery of the services; and

- Strategic fit in relation to the existing and proposed bus network.

As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport. However, I am not involved in the day-to-day management and operational aspects of public transport, as this is the responsibility of the individual operators, in this case Dublin Bus, in conjunction with the National Transport Authority (NTA).

Having consulted with Dublin Bus on the matter, I understand that following the decision to withdraw services, relevant schools and contractors were advised of the cancellation of these services in June and all schools were informed of the available alternatives.

I want to reassure the Deputy that in response to this decision by Dublin Bus, the NTA has put in place arrangements to augment Public Sector Obligation (PSO) bus services where necessary to cater for additional school-children utilising these services.

Further and more specific to your question, I understand from the NTA that additional services have been applied to route 65 to cater for the additional capacity requirements of students attending St. MacDara's in Templeogue, including:

- the introduction of an additional 7.30am service and two additional afternoon services have been added at 3.30pm, 3.40pm on Route 65; and

- on Wednesdays, the additional 3.40pm service leaves Poolbeg Street at 12.50pm to cater for schools on the route which have a half-day.

School children can avail of child fares on these services and a Child Leap Card is the best option for journeys to and from school using these PSO bus services.

I would also like to advise that the School Transport Scheme comes under the remit of my colleague the Minister for Education and Skills. The Scheme is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department of Education and Skills (DES). The purpose of the School Transport Scheme is, having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of children who reside remote from their nearest school.

It is also important to note that the definition of a ‘public bus passenger service’ under the Public Transport Regulation Act 2009 excludes the NTA from licensing or providing services solely for carrying children to or from school. Consequently, the NTA does not manage the delivery of dedicated school transport services.

The NTA is however working closely with operators to monitor the impact of the return of schools on PSO services generally. Once new travel demand patterns are established, the NTA will further review services and make adjustments as appropriate, including determining the potential implementation of any required additional services.