Bus ireann is looking forward to an improvement in trading this year, on the back of passenger growth in 2014, which it describes as â€œa strong performance given the ongoing challenges in the Irish economyâ€.It carried 1m extra passengers in 2014, compared with 2013, and passenger journey numbers jumped by almost 7% in the regional cities.Dublin commuter journeys were up 2% and overall, total passenger journeys increased from 34.274m to 35.424m.In Galway city, passenger journey numbers grew by 12%; in Limerick numbers were up by 4%. In Cork city, numbers grew by 6%, but in Waterford journeys were down by 1%.Bus ireann recently signed a new five-year Public Service Obligation (PSO) contract with the National Transport Authority (NTA), which will see the â€œdevelopment of further customer service standards and increased reliability and punctuality targets.â€This year it will take delivery of 57 new vehicles. These include 20 single-deck coaches (Scania Irizar Century), 25 double-deck buses (Volvo Wrights Gemini) and 12 double-deck coaches (VDL Synergy). Bus ireann has also issued invitations to tender for 143 new buses, for delivery in 2015 and 2016.These are to replace older vehicles and for projected passenger growth in the next two years. The final quantities for each lot, and each year, will be subject to funding from the NTA.This follows the re-launch of its Expressway service with a new campaign, and the first 20 new luxury coaches (Scania Irizar i6 tri-axles) will be introduced shortly.Says Bus ireann CEO Martin Nolan: â€œBus ireann has achieved significant turnaround â€“ and boosted customer numbers â€“ over the last 12 months. Further growth is predicted next year in line with the improving economy, which augurs well for the standards of public transport that can be delivered, and the critical role it can play in helping the economy recover even faster.â€œHowever, we also need to continue to invest to provide extra fleet capacity â€“ along with more bus priority measures, in particular on commuter corridors â€“ to combat congestion. Maintaining pressure on our cost base is also key.â€Bus ireann is making 2015 the ‘Year of the Customer’ and its BClub loyalty initiative passed 100,000 members last month. From Monday (12 January) it starts an â‚¬8 seat sale on selected Expressway destinations.