New bus collection location for students operational “in the next number of weeks”

Ronan Fagan

Bus Éireann has confirmed to the Athlone Advertiser this week that a new location for the collection of students from the Marist College, Our Lady’s Bower and Athlone Community College will become operational “in the next number of weeks”.

Students from the three secondary schools will now use a new collection point at the Athlone Town Stadium in Lissywollen, Bus Éireann confirming that such a location was chosen from a safety perspective.

“Bus Éireann operates the school transport scheme on behalf of the Department of Education. The purpose of the scheme is to provide transport for children living remotely from their nearest school. Safety is a core value for Bus Éireann and is our first priority in all operations.

“Our local school transport office in Athlone continually review the operation of school transport services in the area and actively monitor and improve service performance with safety being the key priority.

“The operation of school transport for three local schools in Athlone has significantly increased due to high volumes of passengers and vehicles in the school locality.

“We have been liaising with Westmeath County Council in relation to identifying a new safe evening pick up point for pupils of these three local schools. The new location has been sourced and will commence operation in the next number of weeks.

“The Bus Éireann local school transport office will continue to engage with schools in the area and parents in relation to the new location, but we can confirm it is the car park adjacent to the Athlone Town Football Club Stadium in Lissywollen,” a spokesperson for Bus Éireann stated on Tuesday.

Concurring with the decision taken by Bus Éireann, Cllr Aengus O’Rourke stated that the proposed location change “presents a very good solution” and addresses any safety concerns pertaining to the existing collection point at Retreat.

“Bus Éireann have identified safety issues with the current pick-up arrangement at Retreat and I believe the new pick-up location presents a very good solution. I don’t want a situation to continue where safety issues have been identified in the collection and transportation of children and anyone that would is treading on very dangerous ground.

“All the routes to the greenway from the three schools have dedicated, segregated pathways and they are very well lit with new LED public lights. There is plenty of room for the buses at the Athlone Town Soccer Stadium car park and from there buses have easy access to the motorway, so journey times should be shorter.

“I have received many calls from people in the Retreat area who seem to be lost in this discussion. They have suffered a great deal of inconvenience for many many years, particularly as traffic and congestion increased over the years. This Bus Éireann change will restore a degree of normality for them between that 3pm to 4pm time period and I am pleased for them.

“I am disappointed at those who predict some kind of deadly dangerous outcome from this Bus Éireann change. Many of the people who contacted me with this in mind don’t know the greenway, have rarely been on it and yet are certain for some reason that something awful will happen to the children. It simply doesn’t add up.

“For those, including the schools who seem to be opposed to this Bus Éireann change, my advice for them would be to arrange for volunteers to supervise the children as they walk to the new pick-up location. This would be a very simple thing to organise and I’m sure it would give those who have concerns the peace of mind they require.

“As a daily user of the greenway, I would be a hypocrite if I advocated for anything other than for more people, more families and more school children to use our fabulous facility. I fought hard as a public representative for the money to put it there, I am proud of it, I use it and I will always promote it in a positive way,” Cllr O’Rourke stated.

The issue was originally raised by Cllr Frankie Keena at the recent Municipal District meeting, the Fianna Fáil elected representative calling on the local authority to write to Bus Éireann to convene a meeting which would be attended by all the interested parties - schools, council and gardai.

His fellow councillors were of the view that the issue was one for discussion amongst school representatives, the onus being on the relevant personnel, not the Municipal District, to make contact with Bus Éireann regarding the convening of a meeting.

Cllr Keena stated that the issue was relevant to the local authority as the imposition of a new bus collection point would impact on the residents in Brawney and traffic using the Ballymahon Road roundabout.

Upon the meeting’s conclusion, Cllr Keena contacted the Athlone Advertiser to express his disappointment that he had received no support from his fellow members to write to the Bus Éireann School Transport Section requesting the facilitation of a meeting between representatives from the three schools and gardai in the hope of “resolving any concerns about the new student pick up location”.


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