Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

In fine order... two key firms given investment boost

Unveiling the new Wrightbus prototype were William Wright, Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster, group managing|director of the Wright Group Mark Nodder, and Invest NI chief executive Alastair Hamilton
Unveiling the new Wrightbus prototype were William Wright, Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster, group managing|director of the Wright Group Mark Nodder, and Invest NI chief executive Alastair Hamilton

Northern Ireland's transport industry is celebrating a bumper day of investment after major announcements from two of our biggest manufacturing and exporting firms.

A Canadian airline has sent out its clearest sign yet that it intends to place a major order for Bombardier's new C-Series jets – the wings of which are made in Belfast.

Toronto-based Porter Airlines has now firmed up a letter of intent for the CS100 aircraft signed back in December 2012.

If Porter goes ahead with the deal for 12 CS100 airliners – with options for another 18 – the order could be worth almost £2bn.

The agreement also includes purchase rights on six Bombardier Q400 NextGen aircraft.

Porter president and chief executive officer Robert Deluce said the CS100 was selected for its flexibility and suitability for urban operations, fuel efficiency and reduced sound and emissions. "The aircraft fits perfectly into our business plans and growth strategy and we are also proud to be the Canadian launch customer for Bombardier's C-Series aircraft," he said.

"We look forward to expanding our network with an all-Bombardier fleet of CS100 jetliners and Q400 turboprops – promoting greener, quieter flying."

Meanwhile, Ballymena-based Wrightbus has unveiled its first prototype electric bus, part of a near £15m investment in research and development.

The move is part of a project which will help take the Ballymena firm's green bus technology to markets in the UK and beyond.

The Invest NI-backed package will also finance the development of a range of low carbon and lightweight vehicles which will comply to stringent new European regulations on emissions.

The first order of eight electric Streetlite buses will take to the streets of Milton Keynes.

And in a first for the UK, Wrightbus aims to create a wirelessly charged all-electric route in the English city by the end of 2013.

Group managing director Mark Nodder said: "We compete with people who make buses in low-cost economies like China so we need to become very efficient to compete with that.

"It's an investment in our future."

Background

Northern Ireland has a low manufacturing base, but the successes of Bombardier and Wrightbus have marked them out as world leaders. Wrightbus has taken a string of orders from transport firms in the likes of Hong Kong and Singapore for its flatpack double deckers. Earlier this year it scooped a £30m deal to add to its growing order book from FirstGroup, one of the biggest public transport firms in the UK, for 179 of its lightweight Streetlite buses. And Bombardier goes from strength to strength in Belfast – with £50m profit made at Short Brothers last year – largely due to big interest in new C-Series airliners.

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