Athlone town's bus fleet is to become fully electric by end of the month, making it the country's first all-electric bus service.

The project, which includes a fleet of 11 new buses, is funded by the Department of Transport through the National Transport Authority and will be operated by Bus Éireann.

Works have been carried out at the bus depot in Athlone to facilitate the move to electric, while chargers and an electricity substation to supply power have also been installed.

Bus Éireann drivers and mechanics have undergone a training programme on the driving, maintenance, and operation of the new buses ahead of the rollout on 29 January.

The €10m investment is the first to launch under the Government's Pathfinder Programme.

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

Last October, the electrification of Athlone's bus service was listed as one of 35 transport projects to be delivered by local authorities and agencies across the country within three years.

It is 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.

"Driven by our new Climate Action Plan 2023, the future of Irish transport is on the cusp of radical change for the better" said Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan.

"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" he added.

Bus Éireann said the new fleet will reduce CO2 emissions by 400,000kg annually.

As part of the company's ten-year sustainability strategy, it has committed to halving its own carbon emissions by 2030.

"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 percent by 2030 and to have half of our urban bus fleet transition to low and zero emission vehicles by the same time," said Bus Éireann Chief Executive Stephen Kent.

National Transport Authority CEO Anne Graham said the launch of electric buses in Athlone represents a "very significant milestone on the journey to a zero-emissions fleet for our town and city bus services".

Athlone is being used to pilot the wider rollout of electric buses around the country.

"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," said Ms Graham.

Bus Éireann said over 10,000 passengers use the Athlone town bus service weekly, a 20% increase on 2019 figures.