INDEPENDENT Cllr Donal O’Cofaigh has described “chaotic scenes” as Fermanagh schoolchildren were left on the side of the road without a bus service on Monday.
Cllr O’Cofaigh said children were left without any way to get to school on their first day back and claimed that Ulsterbus’s contract to carry schoolchildren did not provide for schools reopening this week.
Speaking to the Herald Cllr O’Cofaigh said, “I contacted several bus drivers to find out the story and they confirmed that services weren’t operating as the Ulsterbus schools contract only starts at the beginning of September and hadn’t been brought forward.
“This is a totally shambolic situation. Children’s education and safety have been impacted. Ministers in the Stormont Executive thought that children being left without any form of transport to school, on a timetable for reopening that they themselves set, was a price worth paying in order to cut public transport budgets.”
“Details on the school bus services that will operate after September 1st are few and far between.
The fears of many bus drivers is that the replacement of suspended ‘service’ runs with ‘designated school services’ will become permanent and that the old services will never return,” he added.
“At one stroke we will lose a huge number of our rural bus services, many operating repeatedly through the day. These are vital for rural connectivity”.
In response to this, an EA (Education Authority) spokesperson told the Herald, “In line with the DE guidance we confirmed that limited services would operate 24th-28th August and therefore Translink ‘dedicated’ school services would not run on these dates and that normal services would resume on 1st September.
“Parents whose children use Translink services were also advised to check the Translink website for any schedule changes before travelling.
“We are sorry for any inconvenience and would ask parents to check their Translink journey before travelling at www.translink.co.uk/school services”.
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