Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 29 August 2015

Bit of Ballymena on track to be burning rubber in London


Published 05/06/2013

Enthusiasm: London mayor Boris Johnston with a Wright bus in Ballymena
Enthusiasm: London mayor Boris Johnston with a Wright bus in Ballymena

While it's well known that the new bus for London is being built in Ballymena, it's now been revealed that the tyres that carry them are also being manufactured in the Co Antrim town.

The Michelin X InCity tyres are being fitted to the new red double-decker vehicles being built by Wrightbus just a few miles down the road.

Wrightbus has won a £200m contract to supply 600 of the new buses over the next three years.

While Michelin designs, manufactures and sells tyres for every type of vehicle -- including aircraft, cars, bicycles, earthmovers, farm equipment, motorcycles and even the US space shuttle -- its Ballymena operation is the only truck tyre manufacturer in Ireland.

Spread over 112 acres and employing more than 950 people, the factory has an annual capacity of 1.4m commercial vehicle tyres -- sufficient to meet the replacement needs of every single truck, bus and coach in the UK.

Last month a group of 27 independent truck and bus tyre dealers visited Michelin's factory in Ballymena.

The event with the Michelin Truck Professional (MTP) dealers followed an unprecedented nine-month period for Michelin's truck division which has seen the launch of multiple new tyres by the company.

The MTP network is central to Michelin's future growth strategy in the UK and Republic of Ireland, representing 110 accredited service points, supported by a fleet of 350 service vans.

Michelin's Ballymena factory produced its first tyre on December 3, 1969 and last year celebrated the production of its 30 millionth tyre in Ballymena.

From 1998 until 2011, the plant was controlled by Michelin's North America truck tyre operation when around 80% of the output was exported to North America, but since January 2012 the site has been transferred back to European control.

It is currently the only Michelin factory in the world to manufacture the latest 295/80 R 22.5 X MultiWay 3D XZE (steer) and XDE (drive) tyres.

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