Bus Éireann to phase out diesel-only vehicles in towns and cities

Company outlines move to hybrid vehicles and plans for hydrogen-fuelled buses

Bus Éireann has told staff it expects to make losses of up to €20m over the next three years. File photograph: Aidan Crawley

Bus Éireann has said it will not be introducing any more diesel-only vehicles to its city and town fleets and plans to begin switching to hybrid vehicles this year.

The company’s chief executive Stephen Kent said by 2030, half of the Bus Éireann fleet fleet would emit zero emissions while all diesel vehicles would be at least of Euro VI engine emission standard. Euro VI engines offer up to 90 per cent lower emissions than some of the current diesel fleet, he said.

Currently, Bus Éireann provides more than 220 State supported, or Public Service Obligation (PSO) routes nationwide, a fully commercial intercity service Expressway, as well as the school transport scheme on behalf of the Department of Education.

Addressing the Oireachtas committee on Transport, Mr Kent said in addition to the move to electric vehicles the company was exploring the use of hydrogen fuel cells. He said in 2020 Bus Éireann operated Ireland’s first hydrogen fuel cell vehicle in a trial route between Dublin and Meath, led by Hydrogen Mobility Ireland. The company is now planning to add three hydrogen-fuelled buses on route 103 in Co Meath by June of this year.


For longer routes Bus Éireann is exploring further use of hydrogen fuel cells while also investing in the latest Euro VI diesel-powered vehicles. Mr Kent said the company would be switching to hybrid vehicles in city and town services, starting in Galway by the middle of this year. He said in Athlone, Co Westmeath, the company was working towards the introduction of electric, town services in partnership with the National Transport Authority.

Bus Éireann’s own company car and van fleet will be fully electric by 2025.

The chief executive also said 2020 was the company’s “most challenging in our history”. He said some unprofitable routes must be closed.

Late last year it was announced that Expressway services between Dublin and four other cities would be cut. The Dublin-Belfast route stopped running last year and last month, the X12 route from Dublin Airport to Limerick ceased operating. The Expressway services between the capital and Galway and Cork are due to end this year.

Bus Éireann said at the time it had taken the decision to end some loss-making, commercial services in order to protect essential or “public service obligation” routes. Last month, the X12 route from Dublin Airport to Limerick ceased operating.

The company has also told staff it expects to make losses of up to €20 million over the next three years.

But Mr Kent said thanks to the support of the National Transport Authority it had confirmed orders for 204 new vehicles and was moving to “greener, cleaner, more accessible” vehicles.

In the 2019/2020 school year more than 120,000 children, including more than 14,200 children with special educational needs, were transported in more than 5,000 vehicles, which Mr Kent said was “unparalleled in its scale throughout Europe”.

He said 2,700 employees “have been at work throughout this pandemic, ensuring essential services continued to be delivered for those who depend on them most”.

In recent years, Bus Éireann experienced significant growth in regional cities and towns in particular with investment in additional fleet and increased frequency. Before Covid, in 2019, city passenger numbers grew by 50 per cent in Waterford, by 70 per cent on Route 220 in Cork, and by 60 per cent in Drogheda.

He said buses could increase passenger numbers more rapidly than any other public transport option – within a year to 18 months of investment approval.

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist