By Kieran O’Mahony
NEW arrangements to provide school bus transport for stranded students from Ballineen and Enniskeane to Bandon has resulted in even more chaos and confusion.
An announcement by Senator Tim Lombard confirmed that the Department of Education and Bus Éireann had agreed funding for a 52-seater bus for the students who lost out in August.
The Southern Star has been highlighting their plight, along with Kinsale students, since then.
Eight out of 17 affected students received emails last Friday confirming that they were finally getting concessionary tickets for the bus.
However, last Monday morning the two existing buses, each with different capacities, were swapped to allow these eight students avail of the transport. It now appears that no ‘new’ bus has, as yet, been provided.
Catriona McNamara, whose daughter is one of nine students still without a bus ticket, told The Southern Star that the whole situation has been ‘an absolute nightmare.’
‘We have nine students now left in limbo and we’re approaching mid-term and I think this will go on and on. We were told to just apply next year by Bus Éireann officials. I have my dad dropping my daughter into St Brogan’s every morning and she is asking me why she didn’t get a ticket,’ said Catriona.
‘We were told that the funding was secured from the Department of Education for a 52-seater bus. If we were told it would be sorted in three or four weeks for definite, then that would be fine.’
Another parent, Nora Bradfield – who was also unsuccessful in getting a bus ticket for her son – is still holding out that a 52-seater bus will be provided. She is continuing to drive her son into school in Bandon every morning.
‘I am hoping we will get the bus, but it could take weeks maybe,’ Nora told The Southern Star.
‘The saddest reality about all this is that we will have it again next year, as the bulk of 6th class in our local primary school will be going to school in Bandon.’
Sen Tim Lombard confirmed last Friday that the Department of Education and Bus Éireann had agreed to funding for a 52-seater bus and he has now gone back to Department officials to seek clarity on this.
‘It seems that Bus Éireann hasn’t used the funding and has just swapped buses, which is only facilitating eight [extra] students. Why didn’t they do that weeks ago?’ asked Sen Lombard.
Deputy Michael Collins said that he wasn’t happy that information went out that gave parents ‘false hope’.
‘There was a perception that it was resolved when it seemed it wasn’t, and we must try and get the clarity on this matter. It’s unfair to these families when news went out that it had finally been resolved,’ said Deputy Collins.
Both the Department of Education and Bus Éireann were contacted, but no comment was available at the time of going to press.