A permanent one-way traffic system through the centre of Athlone has come into effect this morning.

The two-way traffic flow along Church Street has been changed to a one-way, westbound system in order to facilitate a €3m streetscape enhancement designed to make the centre of town more attractive and pedestrian-friendly.

The one-way system has sparked strong opinions over the last decade after the council unsuccessfully introduced it on a trial basis in 2008.

From today, traffic travelling eastwards over the town bridge is no longer able to continue on to Church Street and is instead being directed down Northgate Street to what the council has termed the 'Orange Loop' route.

The 'Orange Loop' continues along Northgate Street and Southern Station Road towards the Ballymahon Road and Gleeson Street.

Manager of the Athlone Municipal District Pat Keating said earlier this week that everything was "on track" for the arrival of the new system.

The introduction of the one-way system has come in the same week that Irish Water started a programme of work designed to reduce leakage in local water mains.

Irish Water said it would be introducing traffic management as part of this project, which is due to involve work in Assumption Road, Coosan Point Road, Beech Park West, Ardilaun, Beechpark, Arcadia, Battery Heights, John Mitchell Terrace and Saint Anne's Terrace.

The work on Church Street redevelopment is scheduled to be completed by Christmas.