Free school transport?
Back in 1985 I took my first trip on a school bus to my new secondary school. At that time, school transport was free, and Ireland’s economy was not in great shape. The buses were honestly heaps of scrap, often breaking down, and very over-crowded. Then, at some stage before 1990, we had to pay for a ticket each term. I finished school, but could see school transport got better. Over time too the Irish economy got better. Until recently ticket price for school transport was about €350 per term.
In July, the Irish government announced school transport would again be free – see here. The scrapping of ticket charges was I guess an effort by the Irish government to help families with spiralling costs of living. While this is laudable, it must be remembered that nothing is free. The school transport scheme costs about €300 million per annum so this money must be found somewhere, likely from reductions in some other areas of spending.
Based on my own experience, what worries me most is we may go back to try 1980s. This was not a good time, buses were bad as I said, but the overcrowding was worst of all. Once a ticket charge was introduced, the numbers on my bus fell. It will be interesting to see if investment in school transport will be maintained, only time will tell. To me this blunt instrument of scrapping the charge is not ideal, and there have always been processes where free tickets were issued to families who could not afford them.