Wrightbus in fast lane as Boris Johnson signs £62m deal for 200 new vehicles
London mayor Boris Johnson has confirmed a fresh deal to buy almost 200 new Routemaster buses from Ballymena's Wrightbus in a deal worth £62m.
And Boomer, a Lisburn PVC firm which makes interiors for the red buses, also revealed it's opening a new facility in the south east, close to Wrightbus's own major manufacturing plant.
Mr Johnson visited a plant owned by Wrightbus in Antrim as part of a tour of firms in Northern Ireland yesterday.
And the new deal for the busmaker is said to secure 300 jobs at the firm. A deal to buy the buses was revealed earlier this month, with Transport for London (TfL) confirming that its board had approved the financing of the order for the buses.
Mr Johnson's trip to Northern Ireland came 48 hours after Prime Minister David Cameron travelled to the region to make the case for staying in the EU.
And clad in a high-vis vest during a tour of the Wrightbus factory in Antrim - 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. 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."
First Minister Arlene Foster said Wrightbus is a "shining example of a successful indigenous Northern Ireland business".
"Innovation is a key element of economic success and Wrightbus has once again demonstrated their manufacturing credentials."
And Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said: "Wrightbus is a flourishing business and this latest contract puts them in the manufacturing fast lane.
"The success in winning contracts reflects the sharp Wrightbus focus on innovation and marketing which has resulted in it becoming a major player on the global market.
"This follow up order is testament to the quality of the hard work and skill of their workforce and the benefits to our economy will extend beyond the gates of Wrightbus," he added.
Meanwhile, Andrew Robinson, managing director of Boomer, said: "We are very big into the bus and coach business, and this again gives us continuity of work for maybe 18 months."
Around 20% of the company's business comes from Wrightbus.
Asked about his own company's position on the EU - as he showed the pro-Brexit Mr Johnson around - Mr Robinson would not lean either way, and said the business "will continue to supply products around the world".
But added: "We would rather see this decided one way or the other. Uncertainty is never good for business."