Wrightbus in deal to build 300 vehicles for top Scottish operator Lothian Buses
Co Antrim coach builder Wrightbus has won a contract with Lothian Buses to provide 300 new vehicles over the next four years.
The companies would not reveal the amount to be paid under the deal, but it is understood to be in the tens of millions of pounds.
Lothian buses made in Ballymena will take to the streets of Edinburgh and other parts of the region over the next few years.
It is the latest boost for Wrightbus, which employs around 1,800 people in Northern Ireland, after it announced earlier this week that it had bought the soon-to-be-vacant 100-acre site of doomed tobacco manufacturer JTI Gallaher in Ballymena.
The company, which celebrates its 70th anniversary this year, is not expected to take on new staff as a result of the latest deal.
But it is understood the work will safeguard jobs at the firm, after it announced a recruitment freeze in August.
Wrightbus chief executive and chairman Mark Nodder said: "We are delighted to be selected by Lothian Buses as its primary supply partner for Lothian's BUS2020 environmental fleet strategy.
"We expect the agreement to cover the supply of up to 316 vehicles with a mix of diesel, diesel hybrid and electric technologies."
The deal was announced at industry event Euro Bus Expo, which is taking place in Birmingham this week.
Wrightbus said it will supply five new Wrights StreetAir EV full electric buses during summer 2017 for use in Edinburgh - the first order for the hi-tech vehicles outside London.
Some will be used as tourist buses around the Scottish capital, and will be adapted to include a glazed front section with increased natural light and panoramic viewpoints.
The agreement with Lothian Buses includes support and training from Wrightbus engineers to Lothian's own team.
Wrightbus is one of Northern Ireland's biggest manufacturers and was founded by Robert Wright and his son William - who is still active in the business - in 1946. Its best-known vehicle is the London Routemaster, known as the Boris Bus after the city's ex-mayor Boris Johnson.
The business reported a 19% decline in pre-tax profits to £11.7m in its most recent results. Sales were 7% down to £279m.