Belfast Telegraph

Latest Dublin deal is just the ticket for maker Wrightbus

By Margaret Canning

Nearly 100 double-decker buses made by Wrightbus in Ballymena are taking to the streets of Dublin as part of a multi-million euro deal.

The Co Antrim company, which is one of Northern Ireland's oldest and most successful manufacturers, made the bodywork for the vehicles taking to routes across the Irish capital.

The 90 new buses are being funded by the Republic's National Transport Authority through the Irish Government's capital programme.

The vehicles represent a total investment of €34.7m (£25m) - but there is no figure available for the value of the contract to Wrightbus.

It's the second major order Wrightbus has secured from Dublin Bus in recent years.

Wrightbus employs nearly 1,400 people in Ballymena and had pre-tax profits last year of £4m. It exports to markets including Hong Kong and Singapore.

Mark Nodder, chairman of Wright Group, said: "Together with our partners in Volvo, Wright Group is delighted to be supplying these high quality vehicles to Dublin Bus.

"We are proud of our association with Dublin Bus, and it gives our workforce great pleasure to see double-deckers built in Ballymena."

The chassis of the vehicle is supplied by Swedish transport giant Volvo, the main contractor, while Wrightbus supplies and builds the bodywork on the chassis.

The buses are replacing older vehicles with the aim of having buses with an average age of seven, Dublin Bus said.

A spokeswoman for Wrightbus said: "The order is important to sustain employment at Wrightbus and comes on the back of a previous order for 90 vehicles which were delivered to Dublin bus last year." The Republic's Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe unveiled the new buses yesterday.

He said: "The delivery of 90 new vehicles, equipped with a range of enhanced features, will provide greater comfort and convenience for Dublin Bus customers and will contribute to providing a more sustainable mode of transport, particularly for commuting purposes."

The buses have bilingual passenger information, colour cameras, a staircase CCTV monitor, as well as wheelchair and separate buggy space.

Wrightbus has deals to build 800 Routemaster buses for Transport for London.

The English capital's Mayor Boris Johnson - who made it a mission of his tenure to restore the Routemaster - visited the factory and even got behind the wheel when he unveiled the prototype in 2011.

Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, also visited Wrightbus in 2013.

The company's roots go back to the 1940s when William Wright and his father started work in a shed behind their house at Warden Street in Ballymena.

Father and son built frames for bread vans and mobile shops in the early days.

William Wright, who is now in his late 80s, is still closely involved with the company.

Last year he told the Belfast Telegraph that "hunger" was one of the main reasons for his success.

"We've always looked ahead, years down the line, and that's why we put so much emphasis on research and development," he said.

Belfast Telegraph