Translink, working in partnership with the Education Authority (EA) says it has put plans in place to enable children to return to school safely using public transport this autumn.
The plans see new guidance released for parents and carers setting out what steps will be taken to safeguard young people when they travel, alongside simple advice on the safety actions they can also take to protect themselves and others, so everyone travels safely together.
David Cowan, Translink Director of Commercial Operations, said: “Safety is always our top priority. In line with the Department for Education guidelines, we have worked with EA colleagues and local schools to introduce appropriate school transport from 1st September that aims to maximise services in order to help manage the number of pupils travelling at peak times.
“This will include operating extra school services and more ‘school only’ services, to provide increased capacity as required.
“We know this will be an unsettling time for parents and for many young people it will be their first time back on public transport. Many things will look different with a range of safety measures now on board and in stations for everyone’s protection.
“We expect that both scheduled timetabled services and dedicated ‘school only’ services will be busy at peak times and where possible, we encourage pupils to consider walking or cycling to and from school.
“We continue to enhance our safety standards with regular deep cleaning of our vehicles and facilities using long lasting anti-viral disinfectant and our mobile cleaning teams are sanitising common touch areas. We have protective screens in stations and on bus drivers cabs and have provided hand sanitiser in all main bus and train stations.
“It is now compulsory for all pupils aged 13 or over to wear a face covering on public transport and it is strongly recommended that all pupils regardless of age should wear a face covering on any form of home to school transport where it is appropriate for them to do so. Compliance is already very high at over 80% and together with our wider safety measures, passenger confidence is growing.
“It is important pupils also practice the wider safety and travel advice including good hand hygiene and use pre-paid tickets such as mLink or travelcards where they are not eligible for a sessional school pass. For everyone’s protection there will be no change given on board the bus and train.
“We would also ask parents/carers and schools for their patience at this time as every year it takes a bit of time for the school traffic to settle into a pattern and this year is even more challenging as we work through the impact of this pandemic.
“Translink has been at the frontline throughout this crisis helping get people to where they need to be and now, working together with the EA, we are ready to help get schools back up and running and get young people back into education in this ‘new normal’ and help Northern Ireland recover safely and sustainably”, David concluded.
Sessional Passes will be valid on Translink services from Monday 24th August. For full details on back to school travel arrangements visit www.translink.co.uk/schoolservices