Increases to School Bus Charges

Most parents whose children use buses to get to school – will have recieved Bus Eireann bills recently for next year’s bus fares. There has been some  publicity and uproar about the increases – but are the charges that excessive ?

Budget 2011 – update – More Bus Fare Increases
The 2009 – 2010  bus fares in Ireland for second level students are now €300 per pupil per  year.  With a maximum of €650 per family) Previously the bills were sent each term – (3 times a year)  so the new single bill does cause a bit of a shock initially .

Up until  Easter 2007 , the charge for Junior Certificate pupils was €99 a year. This charge rose to €138 and then again to €168 in Sept 2008. From Sept 2009 the charge will be €300 annually.

The fares for Leaving Cert pupils were  €153 a year in 2007 and rose to €213 in mid 2008 . The new fee is €300 a year.
Prior to 2007 – school transport charges had not been increased since 1998. This is probably the main reason why these increases appear to be so big.  One question is – why did the bus charges not rise each year with inflation?

The new transport charges can be split into 2 payments of €150 – one by the end of July 2009 and the next payment by 4th December 2009. Medical card holders will pay nothing.

Secondary schools in Ireland are only open for just 167 days a year (One of the lowest in the world – but that’s another issue) – so the bus fare works out at  €1.80 a day.  Some bus journeys are longer than others – so some pupils could be driven 3 miles whilst others could have journeys of over 10 miles.  Everyone pays the same fare.

Some parents may  now be tempted to drive their children to school because of these bus fare increases – but apart from the extra traffic congestion, pollution and hassle – will there be much of a saving if people use their cars? Probably not.

Using a journey of 5 miles as an example – that would mean a total distance of 20 miles a day for a parent (in and out twice). According to the AA in the UK – the cost per mile of running a car was 58p a mile in 2008 – about €0.67c . (That takes into account petrol, wear & tear, insurance, repairs, depreciation). So using that figure  as a rough guide – the 20 mile trip would “cost” a car user €13.40 Euro compared to the bus fare of  €1.80.
For a family with 3 pupils – the €650 max fare works out at  €3.89 a day .

Some people will probably just use the actual petrol costs as the price of using a car for the school run.
Typical  petrol consumption is about 1 litre for 10 miles . So a 20 mile journey would use  2 litres of petrol costing about €2.32 at today’s prices . Even using petrol cost alone – the bus still works out cheaper by 50c a day or €85 over the school year for a 5 mile distance.

To be eligible for school transport – pupils must live at least 3 miles from the school. Even for a pupil with the minimum 3 mile journey – it would mean parents driving 12 miles a day and using about 1.2 litres of petrol costing approx €1.40 . This petrol costs- only calculation is slightly lower than the daily bus fare by 40 cents – or €66 over the school year. But when you consider other factors such as wear and tear and  the time taken  – it probably isn’t worth bothering for one child.

There may be some slight savings to be made if 3 or 4 parents got together to arrange sharing the driving during the year – but many children probably prefer the daily bus journey insead of sitting in a cramped car with  mum or dad and adult neighbours .  Organising car pooling for school could also prove to be difficult and could end up causing more arguments and hassle than it’s worth.