Ireland’s Department of Transport has announced that Athlone’s town bus service is set to become the country’s first all-electric bus service, following its official launch by the Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan on 20 January 2023.
Operated by Ireland’s national bus company, Bus Éireann (BÉ), and funded by the Department of Transport through the National Transport Authority (NTA), physical works to transform the town bus service into a 100% electric operation began in 2022, with the service due to commence operations on 29 January.
The project, a €10 million investment by NTA, is the first to launch under the government’s Pathfinder Programme – a package of transport projects to be delivered by state agencies and local authorities around the country within the next three years.
The Pathfinder Programme forms a key part of the implementation of the National Sustainable Mobility Policy, which sets out the government’s plan to meet Ireland’s requirement to achieve a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 in the transport sector. This programme will see 11 new state-of-the-art electric buses operate Athlone town services.
The new fleet will reduce CO2 emissions by 400,000kg annually and will deliver a quieter, cleaner bus service for the town and passengers. Over 540,000km are operated on the Athlone town bus service each year, with over 10,000 passengers now using the service weekly – a 20% increase on 2019 figures.
The new buses will be charged using newly installed charging infrastructure supplied with power from the newly constructed electricity substation within the Bus Éireann depot on Station Road, Athlone.
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In preparation for the commencement of operations, Bus Éireann drivers and mechanics have undergone a comprehensive training programme – more than 500 hours – on the driving, maintenance and operation of the new buses which will deliver emission free public transport.
Minister for Transport, Eamon Ryan, said: “The launch of these new electric town buses and the electrification of the Athlone depot is important on a number of fronts. It’s important because it will give Athlone town a new, quieter, cleaner bus service. It’s important because it’s the first of our 35 Pathfinder Projects to be delivered, just months after we first launched the programme last Autumn (2022). And it’s important because it’s a sign of exciting things to come. Driven by our new Climate Action Plan 2023, the future of Irish transport is on the cusp of radical change for the better. And that radical change will be driven by electricity – electric buses, electric cars, electric trains, powered for the most part by our own home-grown, cheaper renewable energy in the future.”
Anne Graham, CEO of NTA, said: “From today (20 January 2023), the people of Athlone will benefit from buses that are cleaner, quieter, more comfortable and more attractive. Athlone will be the first service in Ireland to be delivered entirely by electric buses, and we should not underestimate the significance of that for this town and for public transport in general. The experience we gain here with our colleagues in Bus Éireann will doubtless stand us in good stead as NTA rolls out similar programmes in Dublin and in other cities and towns in the months and years ahead.”
Stephen Kent, CEO of Bus Éireann, said: “This new fleet in Athlone is a particularly welcome development for Bus Éireann, as we continue on our journey to become one of the most sustainable national transport companies in Europe. The operational experience will be invaluable as we expand electric vehicles to other urban services. We are excited to be operating the fleet, which will deliver a more modern, sustainable and comfortable service and provide an enhanced customer experience for passengers. A smoother and quieter ride is welcome as is improved access for persons with reduced mobility.”