The incident last Friday (01/12), where a fire broke out in the school bus engine in Aglantzia, prompted the Ministry of Transport and stakeholders to hold meetings over the weekend.
This marks the fourth incident in recent months. Among their decisions, all public transport buses lacking automatic fire extinguishing equipment in the engine are barred from use until installation.
This decision affected around 6,000 Pancyprian students, preventing their entry into classrooms on Monday (04/12). The return of the 570 halted buses to the streets remains uncertain, constituting nearly half the school route fleet.
Ten Days Best-Case Scenario
Transport Minister Alexis Vafeadis indicated to "K" that the best-case scenario anticipates a ten-day bus halt, depending on equipment availability. Recent information suggests equipment found in Cyprus; technical details submission will determine suitability. If approved and installed, buses can reopen.
Regarding other buses, the minister stated that existing ones meeting standards already serve the public. In early October, the Ministry requested all companies install automatic fire extinguishing systems, aiming for additional protection.
Despite the bus that caught fire having this system, companies did not comply with the directive, raising concerns for similar incidents.
Technical Checks and Impact on Education
Mr. Vafeadis mentioned all buses underwent a MOT check before the school year, focusing on basic functions, not covering all systems. Various measures, including proper maintenance and preventive measures, are being implemented.
About 6,000 students in secondary and technical education missed school on Monday (04/12) due to bus issues, particularly impacting the Paphos district.
The Ministry of Education evaluates the situation, considering severity, affected students, and areas for decision-making. A circular aids late students while buses remain decommissioned.
Flexibility for student absences is assured, and the possibility of distance education or delayed classes is under consideration.
Limassol Company's Initiative
Loizos Konstantinou, President of the Confederation of Parents of Secondary Education, criticized the last-minute change in student transfers. Suggestions, well-received by Limassol companies, include transferring buses from the city to rural areas and doubling routes within cities. The Limassol company is actively seeking solutions and has found alternative buses.
Konstantinou emphasized that firefighting systems alone are insufficient, urging stricter quality control. Although new buses meet regulations, the issue lies with numerous subcontracted buses. Around 20,000 students, a 25% increase from last year, rely on buses. Companies need to invest in their fleet and routes for a positive outcome.
Ministry of Transport's Decisions in Detail
The Ministry decided to immobilize half the fleet lacking safety equipment and outlined the following:
1. All vehicles of the same type are out of service until examined for mechanical condition and issued a maintenance certificate by a specialized workshop.
2. Due to incomplete maintenance, companies must submit maintenance certificates, signed by a licensed vehicle craftsman, following manufacturer's specifications.
3. Companies undertaking public transport must submit maintenance certificates and/or manufacturer's delegation certificates for the automatic fire extinguishing system on each bus, complying with contractual and legislative obligations.
4. Companies should submit accredited vehicle maintenance and driver training procedures.
5. Recommendations against contracting with bus companies for public transport, such as excursions, lacking automatic fire extinguishing systems and proper operation certificates, as well as maintenance certificates following manufacturer's instructions. A Serious Incident Investigation Team will be established in public transport vehicles, involving experts from the electromechanical Services Department and The Road Transport Department.
[This article was translated from its Greek original]