MORE than 60 new jobs will be announced this morning when London Mayor Boris Johnston opens a manufacturing plant at Wrightbus which will build the chassis for 600 new buses he has ordered for the capital.
The family-owned Co Antrim firm secured a deal from Transport for London (TfL) last year to build the so-called 'Boris buses', the greenest diesel hybrid buses in the world, over the next three years.
Each vehicle costs in the region of £325,000 to produce.
Wrightbus, which employs more than 1,400 staff in Ballymena, has had to create a chassis plant specifically to meet the order.
The existing operation employs 40 people but this will more than double to 90 when full production is under way.
The order will also mean 10 new hires at the Wrightbus Customcare after sales service division, and as well as safeguarding 220 posts at the plant, the contract will also sustain 18 apprenticeships over its life-span - six a year for each of the next three years.
The flamboyant Mr Johnston has a number of engagements in the north today, though he'll be most at home at Wrightbus seeing - and probably driving - the early prototypes of a vehicle designed, engineered and manufactured entirely in the UK.
As well as the manufacture of the chassis and superstructure in Northern Ireland, a number of components for the new bus are made by companies in Britain.
These include engines from Darlington, seats from Telford, seat moquette from Huddersfield, wheelchair ramps from Hoddesdon and flooring from Liskeard, supporting a supply chain the length of the country.
Figures from TfL show that investment in London's transport network supports 40,000 jobs in the UK supply chain, with a further 19,000 supported in the capital alone.
London's Transport Commissioner Sir Peter Hendy said: "This chassis plant and the Wrightbus main plant in Ballymena are a real demonstration of the important role investment in London's transport network plays in supporting jobs and growth throughout the UK.
"Sustained and long-term investment is vital to our suppliers so they have the certainty to invest in jobs including apprenticeships across the country."