Abu Dhabi schools launch minibus ban

Safety issues and a poor accident record for mini and microbuses lead authorities to phase out their use as a means of transporting pupils.

Minibuses, once a ubiquitous mode of transport for schoolchildren in the capital, will, beyond the end of the present school term, no longer be allowed to be registered as school transport vehicles. Sammy Dallal / The National
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ABU DHABI // School minibuses are to be phased out in Abu Dhabi.

No minibus or microbus can be registered as a school transport vehicle after this school term.

Minibuses “lack safety and security standards and violate school transport requirements and regulations”, the School Transport Committee Abu Dhabi said.

It called on schools to adhere to transport requirements and regulations, and to refrain from using minibuses “for the students’ safety.”

“The committee also urges the concerned parties to take all the necessary measures against violators of these instructions.”

It did not say if transport providers would be given time to phase the vehicles out.

Minibus use for schools was banned in Dubai this year, and transport providers were given 18 months to phase them out.

“Minibuses are being banned for many reasons,” said Khaled Al Mansouri, acting chief executive of the Emirates Driving Company, which is part of the school transport committee. “A number of people have died in accidents involving minibuses.”

The vehicles’ relatively high centre of gravity meant it was easy for drivers to lose control, and the limited space inside the vehicle was also a safety hazard, he said. “If an accident occurs, there is not a lot of space for passengers to move out. This applies to 15-seater buses as well as nine-seater buses.

“The bus can easily overturn on a curve when speeding. The design of the seats puts passengers too close for comfort and there are no emergency exits as in regular buses.”

Emirates Transport, which provides more than 4,000 buses for public schools, is also a member of the committee.

“Emirates Transport is fully committed to implementing all laws and regulations related to school transport and fully supports all measures that are taken with the view of improving school transport safety,” said Abdullah Al Ghafli, executive director of the school transport section.

The other committee members are the Department of Transport, Ministry of Interior, Abu Dhabi Police, Abu Dhabi Education Council, Abu Dhabi Municipality and Al Ain Municipality.

Thomas Edelmann, founder of Road Safety UAE, welcomed the ban.

“We must secure the utmost safety for our kids being transported to and from school,” he said. “The current upgrade away from minibuses is seen to improve the ‘proper vehicles’ criteria of school bus safety.

“However, to ensure the safety of our kids, other criteria such as proper operation and safety standards as well as proper control and management systems in school transport should also be met.”

The transport department announced new school transport regulations in April last year.

Among them were fitting buses with GPS devices and CCTV networks, providing attendants for pupils aged 11 and under, and setting an 80kph speed limit. School buses must not be older than 10 years, and operators should coordinate with schools to ensure a one-way journey for any school bus does not exceed 75 minutes.

The regulations were developed in coordination with Adec and Abu Dhabi Police.

rruiz@thenational.ae