Northern Ireland firm Wrightbus has won a multi-million pound order for 600 new London buses — the biggest order of hybrid buses ever placed in |Europe.
Wrightbus won a contract in 2010 to produce eight prototypes of a vehicle inspired by the Routemaster — the famous red double-decker that symbolises London around the world — which have now been tested on the streets of the city.
Impressed by the buses, Transport for London (TfL) told the Belfast Telegraph it has now approved an order for 600 of the vehicles from the the Co Antrim manufacturer.
The news is being warmly welcomed after last week’s announcement of hundreds of redundancies at generator manufacturer FG Wilson.
Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said: “This is further great news for a local company, which only one month ago secured a new £41m contract to supply 550 double deck bus kits to SBS Transit for assembly in Singapore.”
North Antrim DUP MP Ian Paisley added: “Ballymena-built buses are already on the streets of places such as Hong Kong and Las Vegas as well as across the UK.
“However, the approval of this latest order from Transport for London is another very significant boost for the local economy.”
Introducing a bus design influenced by the traditional Routemaster model was an election pledge made by London Mayor Boris Johnson.
Mr Johnson said: “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.”
In a statement, the board of Transport for London said the buses would be on the roads in 2016.
“The order to produce large numbers of these bespoke vehicles will create jobs and help stimulate the UK economy,” TfL added.
Wrightbus was unavailable for comment.
“These magnificent vehicles not only ooze London style, but are a testament to British design, engineering and above all innovation.”
- London Mayor Boris Johnson