Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education Thomas Byrne TD has warned that students could be left without a school bus service as early as next Monday as a result of industrial action at Bus Éireann.

Deputy Byrne made the comments after it emerged that Bus Éireann has written to private operators working under the School Transport Scheme to advise them that payments due on Friday will now be delayed.

The School Transport Scheme supports transport to and from school for children who live in remote areas. The scheme is operated by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department of Education and Skills.

Deputy Byrne said, “Bus Éireann currently relies on a number of private operators right across the country to provide a bus service under the School Transport Scheme. I have previously raised concerns regarding the impact of industrial action at Bus Éireann on school transport services. At the time I was assured that the industrial action will have no effect on the School Transport Scheme.

“I have seen correspondence issued by Bus Éireann to private operators in recent hours which shows that the industrial action at the company is having a direct impact on the School Transport Scheme. Bus Éireann have notified private operators that payments they are due on Friday will now be delayed. This is a serious issue as private operators have warned that they may be forced to withdraw from the School Transport Scheme from as early as next Monday should they not receive their payments.

“I understand Bus Éireann are unable to make the payments due to the ongoing industrial action as administrative staff are not available to process the payments. It’s simply incredible that a contingency plan has not been put in place to prevent this problem from arising. Minister Bruton was warned about this possibility arising a number of weeks ago. At all times, Minister Bruton in the Dail and Bus Éireann have stated that only a tiny minority of children on school buses would be affected by the strike.

“Minister Ross has taken a completely hands off approach to dealing with the industrial action at Bus Éireann and now the crisis is spilling over to other areas of our transport network. Minister Bruton needs to urgently make a statement outlining the current situation and what action he is taking to prevent the loss of services under the School Transport Scheme,” concluded Deputy Byrne.