Education Authority moves to close school bus depot in Lisnaskea threatens health and safety

img_0227Proposals for school bus drivers to use commercial forecourts in Lisnaskea are unacceptable corner cutting

Cost-cutting plans will force reliance on Enniskillen school bus depot to cover entirety of Fermanagh and threaten to impact children attending schools

November 15th: Unite the union Regional Officer with responsibility for school bus drivers in the west, Gareth Scott, has blasted plans by the Education Authority to close the school bus depot in Lisnaskea.

“Unite has raised our fears repeatedly with the Education Authority that their plans to close down Lisnaskea school bus depot will impact the safety of school children travelling to school from rural parts of east Fermanagh.

“School bus drivers have been concerned by Education Authority suggestions that they can simply fuel up at commercial forecourts. The reality is that there are no suitable facilities in Lisnaskea to facilitate safe turning space for school buses. Our drivers are highly concerned that they might run the risk of knocking down someone, in particular children, who might emerge quickly from a filling station. School buses are simply too big to bring onto commercial forecourts safely.

“In the absence of local facilities to replace the depot in Lisnaskea, the additional cost of bus drivers travelling to Enniskillen to refuel makes any savings from closing the depot redundant. The extra running costs associated with this ‘cutback’ really makes us wonder whether this closure decision is being driven by EA management eyeing the cash value of the depot grounds if it was sold off. If that were true, it would be completely unacceptable.

Unite stand-down officer and school bus driver himself, Ciaran McCallion, added his voice of condemnation for the EA proposal.

“Aside from issues about using commercial forecourts, the drivers in Lisnaskea have concerns that shutting down the Lisnaskea depot will leave them entirely reliant on replacement buses coming all the way from Enniskillen in the case of an early morning breakdown.

“Given that there won’t be anyone on duty in Enniskillen first thing, the large distances involved, and the poor road system in Fermanagh, this will mean that should a bus fail to start in Rosslea or Newtownbutler children could be left to wait up to an hour in icy-cold conditions. In such circumstances, parents who rely on school bus transport in order to get away themselves to work will face unforeseen care responsibilities and potentially costs. There’s also the risk of children who might have public exams being severely delayed getting into their schools and all the anxiety caused by such occurrences

“While the bosses are hiding behind the excuse that breakdowns are not all that common, every bus driver knows that they are an unavoidable reality especially in Winter months. As ever, the cost of austerity cutbacks will fall on the most vulnerable – in this case the children and families of rural Fermanagh. For our part, Unite is strongly opposed to this proposal and will continue to engage with our members on our response.

“We are calling on the local elected representatives, who have so far been entirely silent on this issue, to make their objections publicly and engage with the Education Authority bosses to encourage them to reverse this closure plan”, Mr McCallion said.

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