x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

School transport providers in Abu Dhabi that do not meet the new regulations set out by the Department of Transport will not be permitted to increase the bus fees.

Private schools seeking approval from the Abu Dhabi Education Council to increase transport fees must ensure all of their buses comply with new safety standards. Fatima Al Marzooqi / The National
Private schools seeking approval from the Abu Dhabi Education Council to increase transport fees must ensure all of their buses comply with new safety standards. Fatima Al Marzooqi / The National

ABU DHABI // School bus operators that do not meet all of the Department of Transport’s new safety regulations will not be allowed to raise their fees.

And private schools that want approval from the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec) to increase transport fees must ensure all of their buses comply with the standards, said Ali Makki, a manager at the department.

On Sunday, members of the school transport committee visited Vision Private School in Al Mushrif to check its compliance with the safety codes.

The committee comprises representatives of the department, Adec and Abu Dhabi Police.

“Our aim is to raise awareness and boost the level of safety, security and convenience for students and not to slap schools with fines,” said Mr Makki. “And we are happy with what we are seeing.”

Operators had until the start of this month to modify at least half of their fleet, with the other 50 per cent to be completed by September next year, the regulations issued in April state.

Last week, the committee reported that 1,000 school buses complied.

Dr George Nader, licensing and accreditation division manager at Adec, said some private school buses had implemented 80 per cent of the regulations.

Last academic year, there were about 5,500 school buses in 184 private schools.

Nabil Abu Jarad, manager of Vision Private School, said the school sought approval to increase bus fees but Adec denied them.

The school operates 25 buses and rents another 18. Half of the 1,975 students at the school take the bus.

“If we are not allowed to increase the fees we may be forced to sell our buses,” Mr Abu Jarad said.

He said the school wanted to raise fees to Dh3,500 from Dh2,000 because of the rising cost of diesel, bus drivers’ salaries, the cost of renovating buses and other expenses.

“Within two months’ time, all our 25 buses will meet the department’s regulations,” Mr Abu Jarad said.

The department is preparing “four scenarios that will be shared with Adec”, Dr Nader said.

“These four areas are new buses, modified buses, bus drivers and escorts,” he said, adding that the department recognised there were costs involved.

Khaled Al Ansari, Adec’s school services manager, said more than 50 per cent of public school buses operated by Emirates Transport had complied with the regulations.

In April, Mr Al Ansari assured parents there would be a transport fee cap and that service providers would not be allowed to increase fees without approval.

Dr Nader said Adec wanted to make school buses the preferred mode of transport.

“We want to encourage students to use the buses instead of private cars since it reduces traffic volume and congestion,” he said.

Under the new regulations, bus operators should coordinate with schools to ensure a one-way journey does not exceed 75 minutes.

rruiz@thenational.ae