THE soaring price of fuel is having a massive impact on school bus providers with one Letterkenny company fearing it may have to close if the government does not provide support for the sector.
Speaking to the Donegal News this week Cathal McGettigan of McGettigan Travel said their bills have risen by 36 per cent since January. He started the business in Letterkenny in 1999 and said this is the worst crisis the sector has experienced.
“Since Covid and now with the oil prices it has just completely wrecked us all together. Every week is getting harder,” he said.
“We have a lot of good clients but they can’t stump up to keep us going.”
Cathal’s daughter Maelisa said they do not want to rise their prices as they know everyone is struggling.
“We are trying our best because everyone is struggling at the minute. Prices have gone up everywhere, diesel, fuel, coal everything is going up so we are trying not to put up the prices.”
The pandemic already dealt a significant blow to private bus companies and they were just starting to feel like they were getting back on their feet when the spiralling fuel costs knocked them down again.
“We had to start from scratch and started building up again and the next thing the diesel started rising. The bills from January to March are ridiculous,” said Maelisa.
“Because the schools aren’t running in the summer and we have the odd private hire our buses are parked up and we send them for their maintenance checks. A lot of our costs are in the summer.
“Because the diesel prices are as high as they are it is so hard to try and save the nest egg for the summer. If things don’t start coming down I would say we will be shutting up shop.”
Cathal said they will keep going until June but will have to decide then if they can continue.
With seven school buses daily covering the Letterkenny area there are many parents and families relying on them to transport their children everyday to crèches, breakfast clubs, school and back again.
The Coach Tourism and Transport Council of Ireland carried out a survey of school transport companies and found that 95 per cent said it is not commercially viable to continue running services up to June without any government support.
“I think they should put a cap on the prices or if they are not going to put a cap on it then they should give us some government support that will help with the diesel bills,” said Maelisa.
Last week the Department of Transport announced a temporary €100-a-week fuel subsidy for hauliers for a period of eight weeks. Cathal said if a similar agreement could be put in place for companies like his it would offer some help to those struggling.
“We are getting nothing, we are funding everything ourselves,” he added.
“Unless the government steps in I don’t know what we are going to do.”
Posted: 6:06 pm March 19, 2022