FULLY electric double-decker buses could be seen on Cork streets within five years, according to the National Transport Authority (NTA).
The bus connects plan envisaged in the Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy (CMATS), published by the NTA, features 100km of new bus priority lanes with a 220 double-deck bus fleet required to carry an estimated 49,000 passengers at peak morning hours each and 85m people annually by 2040.
Michelle O’Sullivan, senior public affairs executive at Cork Chamber, said the launch of CMATS is an opportunity to reassess how buses are powered in order to reduce the impacts on the environment.
“This is a massive opportunity to change how we do things by incorporating climate action into everything we do,” said Ms O’Sullivan.
“I’ve been involved in an Energy Cork initiative around biomethane gases and we are trying to show the potential of the circular economy and anaerobic digestion and how we can take from one area and lessen the impacts from a climate perspective in agriculture to using that as a transport fuel. There are massive benefits there,” Ms O’Sullivan added.
However, NTA deputy chief executive Hugh Creegan said the transport authority expects that electric buses rather than biogas vehicles are more likely to be seen on Cork streets.
“We are kicking off a tendering process this month to start purchasing electric-diesel hybrids for double-decker buses,” said Mr Creegan.
“There are very few double-decker buses that are available in fully electric. They are larger buses and the batteries just aren’t good enough yet for the types of routes we have here in Ireland but we expect they will be in three or four years’ time.
“Our path at the moment is that we are starting to purchase the diesel-electric hybrids and at a point in time we will transition to something else, we think, fully electric vehicles.
“The biogas option has a new directive coming out from Europe on the highest class of buses that they are looking for - which is zero emissions. We still have to finalise the final step of our path but if we are to speculate, we expect fully electric buses in four to five years’ time,” Mr Creegan added.
The cost estimate of the bus connects network is expected to be in the region of €545m within the €3.5bn CMATS plan and also includes a cross-city light rail system, improved suburban rail and more cycling and walking routes.