Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

McNarry: school bus system is out of date

Savings of almost £7m a year could be made by changing how children are transported to school in Northern Ireland, it has been claimed.

Around a quarter of pupils use education board buses and Ulster Unionist education spokesman David McNarry said the existing policy was “out of date”.

Around 110,000 children are transported to school in Northern Ireland.

Many of the routes run by the education boards are not commercially viable, including rural areas or for children with special educational needs.

Mr McNarry said: “We simply cannot afford to ignore potential savings.

“The least we can look for is a far better working relationship between the education boards and Translink for the benefit of the public purse and to see what reductions can be negotiated with commercial private companies, using the negotiating tool of bulk purchase.

“We should enlarge the scope of private enterprise to compete for contracts, or bundles of contracts, and see what enhancement of community bus services can also be raised on the back of this.”

Mr McNarry said 30% of children receive free transport with an annual cost of £74m. Around 65% use Translink and 27% use education board buses.

He said if all pupils on board buses were transported by Translink, an annual saving of £6.8m was possible.

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