Children are taken to school by taxi van. Photo for illustration.Photo: ANP/Arie Kievit
The municipality of Utrecht has drawn up an action plan to reduce the pressure on student transport in the short term. The Board of Mayors and Aldermen (B&W) made this known in a letter to the city council. According to the municipal council, the plan contributes to the more efficient deployment and recruitment of drivers and to limiting the influx of the number of students who depend on taxi transport.
According to the Utrecht college, the quality of student transport is under pressure. According to them, this has to do with persistent staff shortages. “This makes it more difficult to drop off students at school on time.” The city council emphasizes that a number of students do not have a permanent driver.
The municipality also says it has noticed the increased pressure on student transport. According to the college, fewer drivers are available for an increasing number of students. They also state that the current budget for student transport is currently insufficient. “That is why the municipality of Utrecht, together with parents, schools and the transport company, has started looking for measures that can be taken in the short term to somewhat limit the consequences of the driver shortage.”
New inflow The municipality of Utrecht has therefore drawn up an action plan to achieve this objective. “The plan focuses on breakthroughs that contribute to the more efficient deployment or recruitment of drivers and the reduction of the influx of students into taxi transport.”
The action plan contains a total of six solutions. Spearheads include recruiting and retaining drivers, deploying coaches and adjusting school times. According to the municipality of Utrecht, the first point is extremely important, because it will have a direct effect on the current problem: the driver shortage. “In order to recruit extra drivers, we are looking for potential new inflow: people who are currently doing volunteer work or who have no work. We see specific opportunities in approaching target groups, such as 13 seniors and newcomers (in combination with extra language lessons).”
“In addition, we are investigating whether it is possible to create combi jobs and to combine working as a driver, for example with the position of employee in home care,” the college continues its story. “The purpose of this is to train someone from welfare in both disciplines. This creates a working week of approximately 30 to 30 hours.”
Coach The idea of using coaches for student transport is also not shunned by the municipality of Utrecht. “A positive side effect of traveling by coach is that it can stimulate the independence and self-reliance of students and families, because a coach is more like a regular city bus than a minibus taxi. We are selecting suitable schools, routes and target groups and are currently working out whether this is theoretically feasible in terms of pick-up and drop-off stops and times.” According to the municipality, parents and schools were positive about this solution direction, “provided there is sufficient guidance in the coach”, according to the Municipal Executive.
Change school hours Finally, the municipality of Utrecht has announced that it is investigating the possibility of temporarily changing the school hours of some (V)SO schools. “As a result, the minibuses no longer have to drive during rush hours, which reduces travel time. The expected impact of this breakthrough is large: if one or two schools do this, this could already solve the existing driver shortage”, the Utrecht council thinks.
However, the municipality does have a number of serious comments on this possible solution. “For example, it may happen that students can no longer participate in after-school activities. Or it may be necessary for parents to have different working hours. It also has major consequences for the schools, for example for the working hours of teachers.”
Parents and teachers have therefore indicated that they find the consequences of this solution approach “drastic”. “They see a lot of snags. Nevertheless, they do indicate that it is worth investigating the experiences elsewhere in the country.”
Sounding board groups According to the council, the municipality has already started with a number of these solutions. “We are now going to start with a part.” To keep parents and schools informed of all developments regarding this action plan, the municipality is organizing sounding board groups and round table discussions with the schools and parents. The sounding board groups meet four times a year. During the round table discussions, all parties involved consider possible solutions for the long term.
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