ALTERNATIVELY-FUELLED buses are to be trialled on Cork's 207A bus route to determine whether they can be rolled out across the entire Bus Éireann network nationwide.
Drivers will mimic the entire bus route, stopping at scheduled bus stops and, even, opening doors. However, no passengers will be allowed on during the trial.
The government plans to convert the country's entire bus fleet to low-emission vehicles, including electric buses, by 2030.
The new bus trial will start on Monday and will assess a range of fuels and technologies, including electric vehicles, electric-hybrid vehicles, hydrogen and compressed natural gas and biogas.
Each of the fuels and technologies undergoing testing will be compared against a Euro VI diesel baseline. The trials will consider CO2 emissions, air quality impacts, and contribution potential towards renewable energy targets as well as other criteria such as costs, fuel economy, availability and infrastructural requirements for each technology. In addition, drivers will complete a survey to provide qualitative data on the operational experience of driving each alternatively fuelled bus.
The retrofitted buses will run intermittently on slightly modified existing bus routes, including the 207A in Cork and the 9 in Dublin, on weekday afternoons and evenings over the next four months.
The buses will simulate real-driving conditions, stopping at or near bus stops, with doors opening and closing to simulate real bus journeys. However, no passengers will be carried on the buses.
Bus Éireann say that the trial will not impact existing schedules or service capacity.
The trial is part of the move towards greener public transport as outlined in the National Development Plan.
The Plan includes provisions for electric buses and states that no diesel-only buses will be purchased from July 2019.
Meanwhile, under the Climate Action Fund, further electric vehicle charging points are to be rolled out nationwide to encourage further uptake of electric cars, while the government is also set to back Irish Rail's proposed year-long trial of the hybrid powering of inter-city trains. The aim is to roll it out across the entire fleet in the coming years.
Transport Minister Shane Ross hailed the announcement of the green projects.
"[The trials] makes it an exciting time for greening our public transport fleets. Collectively, these trials will play an important role in providing the information we need to invest in the right technologies in order to move public transport to a cleaner and lower emission future."