Boris bus order provides £62m boost for Wrightbus
AN order for almost 200 new London buses - confirmed yesterday by the city's lord mayor Boris Johnson - will sustain 300 jobs at Wrightbus.
The flamboyant Tory politician visited the manufacturer's Antrim plant yesterday as he toured companies across the north that make parts of the so-called Boris buses.
The latest order from Transport for London (TfL) for 195 of the iconic Routemaster vehicles is worth around £62 million and will provide around six years of work.
There had been some doubt cast over the future of Wrightbus' construction of the vehicles with Mr Johnson due to leave office in May.
But the continuation of the scheme was signed off by the TfL board last month and confirmed yesterday.
Mr Johnson said the order was "fantastic news for London because we are going to get another 200 of these superb Northern Irish-built new buses for London, Routemaster buses".
"I hope it's good news also for the Northern Ireland economy. What it shows is how keeping London moving keeps Northern Ireland moving, keeps the UK moving together. I am very pleased today to see we are going to have 1,000 Wrightbuses on the streets of London - 1,000 new Routemasters," he added.
First minister Arlene Foster said the deal represented a "timely boost for the Northern Ireland manufacturing sector".
"Innovation is a key element of economic success and Wrightbus has once again demonstrated their manufacturing credentials," she said.
Deputy first minister Martin McGuinness said said the latest deal put Wrightbus "in the manufacturing fast lane".
"The success in winning contracts reflects the sharp Wrightbus focus on innovation and marketing which has resulted in it becoming a major player on the global market," he said.
The London mayor, also visited Lisburn firm Boomer Industries, which provides interior trims for the Routemaster bus and others made by Wrightbus.
Its managing director Andrew Robinson said the link with Wrightbus had allowed it to open a new facility in Chennai, south-east India.
“Not only will this enable us to support Wrightbus in India, but will also allow Boomer to exploit fresh opportunities for its products and services as well as develop and strengthen our business links within the Asian and Middle East markets," he said.
Mr Johnson, the most high-profile member of the campaign for the UK to leave the EU finished the day as guest at an event organised the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce.
At the reception held at Hillsborough Castle, chamber president Stephen McCully pointed out that 81 per cent of businesspeople in the north are said to be in favour of remaining in the EU, according to a chamber survey.
Mr McCully, who is also managing director of Power NI said: "What I’m hearing from members is real concern about the investment hiatus and uncertainty that this referendum creates. There is also concern about connections and the continuity of trade into important markets."
Reflecting on the day's news regarding Wrightbus, Mr McCully said there were "extreme risks looming in the contemplation of having to 'hop-off' and 'hop-on' to another bus where the destination is far from certain."