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Road safety fears raised

July 27, 2010


The recent decision by the Transport Management chief of the Southern Education and Library Board (SELB) to remove the school bus which had been used by schoolchildren from Clonalig Primary School has been heavily criticised by Sinn Fein Councillor Terry Hearty.

The bus service, which has been in provision for more than 40 years, will not be available to the majority of children when the new school term starts in September.

Incensed

“Following a protracted series of meetings, the SELB have come to the decision that Clonalig School bus will be targeted for the chop,” Mr Hearty said.

“ I am incensed by this decision, as are the parents of those children affected.  This decision does not just impact on kids attending Clonalig but also young people attending St Joseph’s Secondary School in Crossmaglen, as the bus serviced both routes.

“I am so angry with the SELB Transport Management boss that I have asked him to consider his position.  Transport Management in the SELB appear to have little regard for the safety of our children, in fact safety was not mentioned by them on any occasion during this series of meetings.  What the SELB are doing is focussing their attention on budgets and citing ‘parental responsibility’ for children but I am of the opinion that our children’s safety should be their main concern.”

Danger

“The major problem is that Clonalig is situated on the main route between Dundalk and Derry, one of the busiest and most dangerous roads in the country.  The volume of traffic has increased in recent years with the close proximity to the motorway.  This is the road which our children are supposed to walk along to get to school.  It just beggars belief,” he added.

Mr Hearty also criticised the SELB for not providing him with information he has continually requested.

“Time and time again I asked the SELB to produce information on savings made the last time south Armagh was targeted for cuts two years ago when 70 children were removed from buses.  However to date I have not received this information.

“I have also enquired how the cuts in this area compare to other areas in the North but again the SELB do not appear to have such information to hand,” he said.

Orla Kelly has five children attending Clonalig School.  Voicing her concerns at the termination of the bus service, she said: “I can’t believe that the bus is being denied to children in this area.   Nowadays in many families both parents are working and are not available to bring children to school.  Also in some families there may only be one vehicle which may not be available at the times required to drop off and pick up school kids.

“I would urge the SELB to reconsider their decision,” Mrs Kelly added.

Responsibility

Councillor Hearty insists that school transport policy and budget is the responsibility of the Education and Library Boards.

“People in this area know that the Education Minister does not have control of these budgets so once again I am calling on the SELB to change their decision,” he said.


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