Minister Eamon Ryan met school children from St Mary's NS and Dean Kelly NS following the launch of the new fully electric town bus service. Pictured on the left waving is CEO of Bus Éireann Stephen Kent.

'Historic' and 'landmark' event for public transport in Athlone today

Bus Éireann CEO Stephen Kent hailed the launch of Ireland's first fully electric town bus service in Athlone today as a "historic and landmark event for public transport".

He was speaking alongside Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan at a function in Athlone Bus Station earlier today (Friday).

The new zero emissions service involving eleven buses in the Athlone urban area is due to commence operations on January 29 as part of an investment of €10 million by the National Transport Authority (NTA).

The new fleet operated by Bus Éireann 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 travelled on the Athlone town bus service each year, and more than 10,000 passengers now use the service weekly – a 20% increase on 2019 figures.

Paul Gillespie, depot supervisor, at the wheel, with Minister Eamon Ryan at the launch of Athlone's fully electric town bus service, the first such service in Ireland, on Friday. Photo: Paul Molloy

During his visit the minister was given a tour of the charging infrastructure supplied with power from the newly-constructed electricity substation within the Bus Éireann depot on Station Road, Athlone, where he also meet with local technicians and driving staff.

Alongside public representatives and other guests, the minister then took a short trip on one of the new electric vehicles to St Peter's Square, where he met school children from St Mary's NS and Dean Kelly NS and local musicians who were entertaining the gathered crowd.

Earlier, he said it was a privilege to be in Athlone for what he described as a "very significant, important and historic day".

Having seen the buses, the minister said they were "quick, quiet and clean" and much more accessible for those in wheelchairs and parents with buggies.

The vehicles also take advantage of technology, so instead of wing mirrors they rely on cameras and give improved night vision.

In 2022, the minister said they connected 67 new towns with buses and that number will continue to climb, and combined with reduced fares is resulting in a major uptake in users, particularly, young people.

"We'll do 100 million bus passengers this year because it's growing; the lower fares, the better buses, the new routes are all working," he commented.

Paying tribute to the Bus Éireann team in Athlone for bringing the project to this point, Mayor Cllr Vinny McCormack quipped that he looked forward to the "roaring success our new electric bus fleet - without the sound of roaring engines!"

See a full report from the launch in this week's Westmeath Independent on Wednesday.

Local public representatives pictured with Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan in front of one of the new electric buses.
Tom McHale Regional Engineer Bus Eireann at the CCS2 charging connectors.