ISSUED AUGUST 21ST 2011
DEPUTY TOM BARRY CALLS FOR REVIEW OF LOST SCHOOL TRANSPORT CONTRACTS
I have contacted Minister Ciaran Cannon and Bus Eireann seeking an urgent review of the new tendering process that has excluded long-standing school bus drivers and leaves many of them now facing financial ruin.
I have been making representations in particular in relation to five Youghal School Transport Contractors, and Bus Eireann’s response to the matter is that they are following the selection criteria laid down by an EU Directive and that they are legally bound to do so. However, I question the spirit in which Bus Éireann is trying to implement this Directive. All the existing bus operators have reached the highest standards. Indeed some of these people have been operating buses on the same route for 28 years. These operators have a proven track record and are competitive in their price quotation.
What we have here are new people from various sides of the country tendering for bus routes in areas they are unfamiliar with. These operators will not know the people, the route or the countryside so the quality of service will go down. There was not a sufficient lead in time for this new tendering system to be implemented and therefore it seems that the new tendering system has worked badly against the drivers who served their routes for many years.
Many of the affected drivers and bus operators bought new buses on the instructions of Bus Éireann and still have monies outstanding to pay for these buses. Many of these contractors, who have young families, face financial ruin if this tendering system is brought in immediately. In addition, I have received representations from school staff who are more than happy with the services being provided by the current contractors.
The new tendering system is a five-year contract which means people have to quote in 2011 for a service they are going to provide up to 2016 giving a fixed cost price. However, it seems unworkable as nobody can tell the future price of diesel in 2016 and diesel is one of their largest costs. This five-year contract also creates a very unsettling environment for individual drivers or small companies who will be afraid to invest for fear that they might lose the next contract. This is a rushed reaction which will do nothing to improve the quality or the cost in school transport and certainly opens up the argument that it is indeed Bus Éireann that should lose out on the contract.
The Department of Education pays €28.6m to administer the School Transport Scheme which equates to €8,588 per bus per annum. This is an absolutely unbelievable figure and the very Company that is responsible for this outlandish waste of money is trying to put smaller companies out of business and if this new tendering system is introduced, it will undoubtedly lead to increased administration costs on top of already acute costs at present. I plead with you to halt the awarding of revised contracts and review the implementation of the relevant Directive.