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Wrightbus recalls 468 Routemaster vehicles from London fleet

Steering fault sees 'Boris buses' taken off road as precaution

By John Mulgrew

Published 18/03/2016

Wrightbus-made double decker in London
Wrightbus-made double decker in London

Almost 500 Ballymena-built London Routemaster buses have been recalled over a fault linked to their power-steering.

The red so-called 'Boris buses', named after flamboyant London Mayor Boris Johnson, are built by Ballymena's Wrightbus.

But 468 of the new buses were taken off the road temporarily after a problem was discovered with a part which deals with the power-steering.

The details of the recall state that the "power assisted steering may become non-functional".

It says "wiring connections within the inverter may not have been correctly formed".

The issue was confirmed by Transport for London (TfL).

"A fault was found in the electrical wiring of a unit which provides the power-assisted steering in one new Routemaster bus in September 2015," Mike Weston, Tfl's director of buses, said.

"As is standard practice, Wrightbus informed the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency and, as a precaution, decided to replace the unit on the 468 buses which were manufactured with this component, with the fault found on one further bus.

"There was no impact on passenger safety or service, and the precautionary work was completed at no cost to TfL or the taxpayer."

Wrightbus did not wish to comment.

It's understood that out of the remaining 466 units replaced, only one additional bus showed the same fault. The replacement programme took place between October 2015 and February this year.

It comes after more than 500 Routemasters had to undergo a £2m refit with windows which open, after passengers in London branded them "saunas" and "cauldrons on wheels".

There are currently around 800 buses on the streets of London already.

And last month, during a trip to Northern Ireland, Boris Johnson confirmed a fresh deal to buy almost 200 new Routemaster buses in a deal worth £62m.

Wrightbus employs around 1,500 people in Ballymena. The latest orders will ensure the security of that workforce for the near future.

Introducing the so-called 'Boris bus' onto London's streets has been a signature policy of Mr Johnson, whose tenure will come to an end in May. According to The Guardian, the price which Wrightbus has been able to command for the bus has been falling, from around £352,000 per bus at the start of the arrangement in 2009, to around £315,000.

During his visit to Wrightbus's factory in Antrim last month, clad in a high-vis vest and at one point swinging from under the chassis of one of the vehicles to demonstrate how robust the structure was, Mr Johnson said the deal for additional buses was "fantastic news".

"I hope it's good news also for the Northern Ireland economy," he said.

"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."

Belfast Telegraph

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