The National Transport Authority has said it is hopeful it will see fares and passenger numbers on public transport recover over the next 18 months. 

The pandemic has seen passenger numbers reduce significantly on State transport and the Government pledged €1 billion in the Budget to bail out bus and rail services.

NTA Chief Executive Anne Graham said: "We really have to take each step, each year as it comes so we do hope that we will see recovery in fare revenue and passenger numbers once we get through this Covid pandemic." 

Bus Éireann CEO Stephen Kent said he does not have concerns regarding commitments being made for the rest of this year and next year, adding, that "it's about getting the economy moving again but doing it in a safe fashion and making sure that all of those protocols are in place. " 

Earlier, the NTA announced that the first ten of 100 double-deck electric hybrid buses ordered by the authority have been delivered.

The buses, which are destined for use in Dublin by Dublin Bus and in Galway by Bus Éireann, will enter service early in the New Year.

The hybrid buses, which can operate a zero-tailpipe emission mode for a distance of at least 2.5km, will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 30%.

Dublin Bus will use their initial allocation of buses to convert routes 4, 122, 123 and 140 to hybrid bus operation, while Bus Éireann will use their initial allocation to commence the conversion of Galway city routes.

The buses are fully accessible and fitted with an induction loop system to assist the hard-of-hearing along with a passenger information display within the wheelchair space on the bus.

Minister of State at the Department of Climate Action and Transport, Hildegarde Naughton, said: "We have committed to no longer buying diesel-only urban buses for our public transport services as part of our efforts to decarbonise the transport sector.

"These will be the most fuel-efficient buses in the national fleet, but as well as that, they are capable of zero-emissions running for sections of their journeys, which when utilised will be a great improvement for our urban air quality.

Ms Graham said: "The NTA is committed to the transition to zero and low emission public transport vehicles, and with these new ADL buses, we are taking a significant step towards a more sustainable bus fleet.

"These vehicles will also add some badly-needed extra capacity to our city fleets in Dublin and Galway

"While public transport passenger numbers have fallen as a result of Covid-19 restrictions this year, we believe that they will return to something approaching pre-pandemic within the next 18 to 24 months."

Additional reporting Sharon Lynch