Every company provides drivers on request

School buses are too full, coaches are standing still

Across Germany, more and more children and parents are complaining. School principals and local authorities are also concerned: A frequent constant nuisance - the overcrowded school buses - is becoming a real problem in the Corona crisis. The children crowd into the buses every morning and after school, often standing very close to one another during the journey. What about the necessary distance rules to protect against the corona virus? They don't work - and the already often stressed drivers in the full school bus cannot also check whether the mask requirement is being observed. The Federal Association of German Omnibus Entrepreneurs (bdo) has now offered a solution that could also alleviate the problems in its industry.

Omnibus company association: We can provide buses and drivers in Corona times

"Due to the long restrictions and the reluctance of customers, bus tourism is still largely at a standstill," said Christian Wahl, spokesman for the Federal Association of German Bus Entrepreneurs, when asked about KOMMUNAL. "Many vehicles are currently deregistered and could be included in appropriate planning." This reserve is now available. It looks similar with drivers. "Many drivers are currently unable to work in the travel industry and could therefore be used in local public transport," emphasized the association's spokesman. He emphasized: "Our request to the politically responsible in all federal states is: Please provide the money, we would be able to provide buses and drivers."

City and municipality federation: Use of free buses an alternative to overcrowded school buses

The German Association of Towns and Municipalities welcomes the offer from the bus tourism industry. "If the capacities of the transport companies are insufficient, the use of free capacities in the bus tourism industry is a possible alternative," said Timm Fuchs, transport expert at the German Association of Cities and Towns, to KOMMUNAL. At the same time, he emphasized: "A particular challenge for the transport company, however, is the provision of additional driving personnel, which must be available decentrally."

Previous problem: There are no bus drivers

Industry associations assume that there will be a shortage of around 70,000 bus drivers nationwide in the coming years. The Association of German Transport Companies has already started a campaign to look for bus drivers. Around 600 companies involved in public passenger transport and rail freight transport in Germany are organized in the VDV.

The Association of Towns and Municipalities refers to a model practiced in North Rhine-Westphalia and Saarland that additional buses are available on demand via a state pool and the states assume the costs. This is to be recommended, according to traffic expert Fuchs. He emphasized: "To effectively protect against infection and to relieve the parents, it is important that school bus transport in rural areas is safe. Sufficient buses must be used so that the distance requirement can be observed."

In a fire letter to the state government, the district administrator of the Wetterau district, Jan Weckler, is now calling for the additional use of coaches. The buses are "jam-packed" at the moment, criticized Weckler in an interview with the "Hessenschau". It is difficult to understand that a lot of rules are adhered to in school and that they no longer apply on the buses. "At the moment, there are increasing inquiries from concerned parents who no longer understand this," said Weckler. He referred to Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate, which are already using coaches.

Because school buses have to meet certain requirements, the state government must first approve the use of coaches. It is also open who would bear the costs for additional vehicles and staff. Weckler is of the opinion: The local transport companies, which are already affected by Corona, could not pay the additional costs. The country must step in.

There is movement in Baden-Württemberg. The state now wants to finance additional school buses there. Students shouldn't sit too close to each other, so additional buses are required. The state wants to cover 80 percent of the costs for the additional journeys, as a spokesman for the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Transport confirmed to the "SWR". A total of ten million euros should be available for this by the end of the year.

Peine district overturns idea for school bus alternative

The need is great and makes people inventive: The Lower Saxony district of Peine wanted to do something about the grievance - but what was meant well did not go down well: The district administration had offered the parents a flat rate of 30 cents per kilometer if the children were in the Car to be brought to school. This should avoid full buses and reduce the risk of infection. After violent protests, the top administration has now accepted the unusual offer again. The education committee had previously met and clearly advocated it. "We took the criticism to heart," said the district's press spokesman, Fabian Laaß, when asked by KOMMUNAL. "At first we thought it would be better to generate more traffic than close the school because of Corona, but that was too short-sighted."

Parents are warned about taxis

The traffic situation is already tense because of many construction sites and diversions. In addition, there is an urgent warning against so-called parent taxis. Serious accidents occur time and again in front of schools, in which children are injured or even killed. Criticism came from many quarters, even from the General German Automobile Club, the ADAC. The transport association warned that there was simply not enough space in front of the schools. The Lower Saxony Association of Towns and Municipalities also warned of considerable administrative effort.

Applications made will still be considered

The district would have accepted that the Co2 emissions would also increase with the parents' taxis. He hoped that this would straighten out the situation and prevent the corona virus from spreading. They are definitely interested in an environmentally friendly transport policy: Pupils who hand in their student collective time card and instead of taking the bus to school by bike receive a bike bonus of 10 euros per month in the district of Peine. "We will now," announced the spokesman, "look for other solutions." The test phase for the parents' taxis ran for one week, but has now ended. The applications already made for the 30 cents per kilometer will still be considered, said Laaß.

The President of the Association of German Transport Companies, Ingo Wortmann, advocates that "the demand for passengers in school and commuter traffic is temporarily organized differently". To this end, the starting and closing times of the schools must be staggered from case to case and they should be outside of rush hour if possible. However, the association also points out that so far there have been no objective indications of an increased risk of infection in buses and trains.

With #BesserWeiter, the federal government, states, municipalities and the transport companies in Germany started a joint campaign in July. The aim is to regain people's trust in buses and trains. In coordination and cooperation with the municipal umbrella organizations, the North Rhine-Westphalia Ministry of Transport started a survey of the state's 52 municipal health authorities to find out whether there are any contagions associated with local public transport.

What are the currently discussed solutions for overcrowded school buses due to Corona?

Ordering more buses sounds like the simplest solution. But that also means higher costs. The municipalities are asking themselves whether the buses are really being used to capacity - this applies above all to rural areas. Some of the solutions currently being discussed:

  • More buses are generally used at peak times. However, the corona crisis is already causing municipal transport companies to lose billions. Because the number of passengers has fallen sharply overall.
  • The travel companies provide buses and drivers that have become vacant due to the Corona crisis.
  • Additional buses are available on demand via a state pool and the states assume the costs - North Rhine-Westphalia and Saarland are already using the model.
  • Should there be more buses, it would also have to be ensured that not all children get on the first bus that comes by straight away. You would have to wait for the next bus so that it doesn't run almost empty. However, the driver cannot control it, so additional staff would be required at the bus stops.
  • There is a proposal to start teaching at the schools staggered. But that would have consequences for all bus routes, the public transport would then have to be clocked differently.
  • Others suggest that the lessons should be straightened out, some of the lessons should be shifted to the afternoon or that school should be held on Saturdays.

Anyone who follows the discussion about the full school buses knows: The topic moves many. Solutions are therefore urgently needed.