Belfast Telegraph

London Mayor parks plan to buy more 'Boris' buses made by Northern Ireland firm Wrights

By Staff Reporter

The new London Routemaster built in Co Antrim appears to have finally reached the end of the road.

Popularly known as the 'Boris bus' after former London Mayor Boris Johnson, the nostalgic vehicle is manufactured by Wrightbus in Ballymena.

But Mr Johnson is now Foreign Secretary and the new mayor, Sadiq Khan, has shown no enthusiasm for the Transport for London (TfL) vehicle introduced in 2012.

At the weekend, it was reported that Mr Khan had now dumped the iconic red bus as it costs too much to buy.

Others had criticised the project as a vanity project of Mr Johnson's, while the Routemaster's hop on-hop off rear doors are actually closed most of the time.

The Guardian reported that TfL's business plan now stated that "new capital investment will be reduced significantly as we discontinue purchases of new Routemaster buses".

Mr Khan had already indicated during last year's mayoral campaign that holding off on new orders for the Routemaster would help pay for a four-year fares freeze.

The news will be a blow to Mr Johnson, who championed the project and described the bus as a "stunning piece of automotive architecture".

Mr Johnson visited Ballymena last February while still mayor and confirmed a £62m order for another 195 Routemasters from Wrightbus, bringing the total to 1,000.

During his visit, Mr Johnson - 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 - said the deal for additional buses was "fantastic news".

But the now Foreign Secretary had originally wanted a total of 2,000 of the £325,000 buses on London roads.

However, last month it was announced that a new environmentally friendly Wrightbus is set for the streets of London as the famous red Routemasters turn green.

The hydrogen-fuelled vehicle from the Ballymena bus builder, which employs around 1,800 people in Northern Ireland, was unveiled by London Mayor Sadiq Khan at the Zero Emission Bus Conference and Summit in London.

The vehicle features a new form of hydrogen fuel cell technology that will be used on single and double-deck buses from next year.

At least 20 new hydrogen buses are to be delivered as part of a £10m part-EU funded project supporting hydrogen technology. Transport for London (TfL) will provide at least £5m in funding.

Mr Khan, whose father was a bus driver in the city, he said there would be no more pure diesel double-deckers added to TfL's fleet of buses from 2018.

A spokesman for Mr Khan told the newspaper that TfL will be investing in a new generation of buses that would help to improve the air quality.

Belfast Telegraph