London transport to order 600 buses from Wright Group in NI
TRANSPORT FOR London, the body responsible for the city’s transport systems, has confirmed it intends to order 600 buses from Ballymena-based Wright Group.
The board of Transport for London has approved the production order, which it claims is the largest order of hybrid buses yet placed in Europe.
It is also one of the biggest orders secured by the Ballymena firm and will be seen as a major vote of confidence in the North’s struggling manufacturing sector.
The contract boost comes just a week after one of Northern Ireland’s leading engineering companies, FG Wilson, announced plans to lay off 760 workers.
The Wright Group, in business since 1946, first won a contract three years ago to build eight new prototype buses for London.
The London buses incorporate hybrid technology, which combines batteries, a conventional diesel engine and an electric motor.
Transport for London said the buses will significantly cut carbon emissions and improve air quality in the city.
Mayor of London Boris Johnson described the buses as a testament to “British design, engineering and above all innovation. Not only do they deliver significant environmental benefits, they also reinstate the traditional hop-on, hop-off rear platform and passengers love them.
“By ordering large numbers of these fantastic machines we are also creating UK jobs. I promised an expansion of the existing fleet, and I am confident they will be as iconic in London as phone boxes, Big Ben and Beefeaters.”
The engines, chassis, superstructure and seats for the buses are all manufactured in the UK.
Transport for London believes the order will create jobs and help stimulate the economy. It has also said it intends to purchase the buses directly from the manufacturer “in a departure from the current bus ownership model. This will secure a better unit price by purchasing the new buses in larger numbers rather than a bus operator ordering in smaller batches on a per-route basis.”
It anticipates that the first central London bus route, which will involve 30 vehicles, will be converted to the new buses by the end of April next year.
Transport for London said about 93 buses will be delivered in 2013, with 200 vehicles scheduled for delivery in 2014, 250 in 2015 and the remainder in 2016.