Athlone’s town bus service is to become Ireland’s first all-electric bus service.
The service was officially launched by Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan.
Operated by Bus Éireann 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 last year, with the service due to commence operations on the January 29.
The project, a €10m investment by the NTA, is the first to launch under the Government’s Pathfinder Programme – a package of exemplar 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 Pathfinder project, an additional investment in public transport, 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 540,000 kilometres 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. Construction and installation work here was carried out by ESB Smart Energy Services.
In preparing 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.
Speaking at the launch, 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. 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.
“I’m also delighted that this change is starting in Athlone because the other big difference afoot is the upscaling in rural transport that is happening. In 2022, we connected 67 new towns with buses and that number will continue to climb. I would like to commend Bus Eireann and the National Transport Authority for all the work they are doing across the country, and I look forward to many more bus services and depots going electric over the coming years.”
CEO of the National Transport Authority Anne Graham said: “The launch of these electric buses represents a very significant milestone on the journey to a zero-emissions fleet for our town and city bus services.
“From today 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.”
Bus Éireann chief executive Stephen Kent said: “We’re delighted to see the launch of Ireland’s first all-electric town bus service in Athlone today, demonstrating the commitment and ambition of the Government, NTA and Bus Éireann to deliver transformative sustainable public transport services across the country.
“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.
“The all-electric Athlone service will help us to make real progress towards the ambitious goals we set out in our ‘Driving Change Sustainability Strategy, 2021-2030’ to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030 and to have half of our urban bus fleet transition to low and zero emission vehicles by the same time.”