Bus Eireann to switch to electric and hydrogen in emissions cut drive

Caroline O'Doherty

BUS Eireann is to replace half its fleet with electric and hydrogen vehicles over the next nine years as part of a plan to slash greenhouse gas emissions.

The company is targetting a 30pc increase in passenger numbers over the same period but says it can handle growth while still reducing emissions.

Part of the growth is to come from expanding the school bus scheme. One in seven school-goers travels by school bus and the company is aiming for a 20pc increase.

School transport is estimated to reduce car journeys by 35,000 a day, and emissions per bus passenger kilometre are around five times less in buses than in private cars, even in the current diesel models.

Bus Eireann chief executive Stephen Kent said the targets would mean major changes for the company and its 2,700 strong workforce.

Depots would be adapted for electric charging and new fuel storage, and 300 craftworkers specialised in maintaining diesel vehicles would be retrained on clean energy models.

“Because Bus Éireann operates a very extensive and varied public transport network, we need a range of solutions,” Mr Kent said.

The first 61 hybrid buses will be deployed in Galway later this year, three hydrogen buses will go into service on Dublin commuter routes and electric vehicles are being bought for the Athlone town service.

By 2030, half the company’s 1,100 vehicles are to be zero emission electric or hydrogen models.

“The scale and urgency of this transformation will require ongoing close collaboration with the National Transport Authority, the Departments of Transport and Education, CIÉ, state bodies, local authorities, suppliers and local communities, and our employees, and we are grateful for their support,” Mr Kent said.

Bus Eireann emitted 80,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2019 and aims to halve that by 2030.

It also handled 800 tonnes of rubbish and is aiming to cut that in half and recycle 70pc of the remainder.

The targets are part of a wider sustainability strategy which also includes policy goals of increasing the number of women drivers, who currently number 73 out of 1,920, and making all buses, stations and main stops fully accessible.

Climate Action Minister Eamon Ryan welcomed the strategy.

“Our bus services play an essential role in connecting our communities,” he said. “I’m impressed by the ambitions laid out by Bus Eireann and fully support their plans.”