UPDATED: BIC calls for clarity on Seatbelts for Kids funding

By: Jason Whittaker


By Nicole Holyer The Bus Industry Confederation (BIC) is calling on the Federal Government to release information about the status of

By Nicole Holyer

The Bus Industry Confederation (BIC) is calling on the Federal Government to release information about the status of funding available to school bus operators under the Seatbelts for Kids scheme.

The program was established by former Prime Minister John Howard in December 2007 to increase the number of school buses equipped with seatbelts used on rural and regional routes, particularly those used over routes which may be hazardous or involve high speeds.

The subsidy – to which Howard committed $40 million over four years – is available for eligible school buses to fit lap/sash seatbelts and perform any other associated engineering work, including wheelchair restraint systems.

Any bus operator servicing an existing contract with a state or territory government to provide school bus services on a recognised rural and regional school bus route is eligible to apply for the funding of up to $25,000 per bus.

At the outset of the scheme Former Minister for Local Government, Territories and Roads, Jim Lloyd, estimated the subsidy would see seatbelts installed in at least 375 school buses in non-metropolitan areas each year, covering up to 7.5 million school student bus trips a year.

Since the program’s commencement in December 2007, funding has been provided to 58 operators at a total cost of $1,850,817.

Round 4 of the Seatbelts for Kids funding program application process closed on July 14, 2009.

BIC Executive Director Michael Apps says the millions of dollars of unaccounted Seatbelts for Kids funding could be used on public education programs or extended to include urban based or dedicated school buses.

"We’d like to see the funding being retained in some form in the bus sector," Apps says. "It’s very rare that the industry gets any money from the Federal Government."

Apps says any money leftover at the end of the program could be spent on programs aimed at educating students, parents and teachers about the dangers of alighting from a bus.

He says it could be used to extend the existing rural and regional campaign to allow dedicated urban school buses to be eligible.

Alternatively, he suggests it could be expanded to promote public transport and school bus transport as a sustainable transport option.

"There’s a big pool of money there that should be used in some way," Apps says.

"If it’s not going to be taken up by operators who have to apply to put seatbelts into buses, they should be able to suggest a few things."


FUNDING APPLICATIONS AND ALLOCATIONS TO DATE
Round one: 26 operators applied, 26 operators were approved for funding worth $1,027,796, a total of 21 operators entered into funding agreements worth $809,749.

Round two: 18 operators applied, 18 operators were approved for funding worth $603,200, a total of 18 operators entered into funding agreements worth $431,032.

Round three: 27 operators applied, 24 operators were approved for funding worth $745,986, a total of 19 operators entered into funding agreements worth $610,036.


See the full article in the September edition of Australasian Bus and Coach Magazine.

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