Wrightbus wins £4m contract to build 27 buses for Stagecoach
Co Antrim bus manufacturer Wrightbus has won a deal worth around £4m to build vehicles for a UK company.
Transport giant Stagecoach, which is based in Scotland, said it was ordering 27 buses from Wrightbus, part of a larger £70m deal for 340 buses and coaches.
Ballymena company Wrightbus, which is one of Northern Ireland's most successful manufacturers and employs around 1,500 people, will provide 18 Streetlite single-deck buses and seven open-top double-deckers to Stagecoach.
Its creations are already a familiar sight on Great Britain's roads - most famously, the red double decker London bus, dubbed the 'Boris Bus' after former London Mayor Boris Johnson
Wrightbus would not comment on the value of the deal but it's understood to be worth around £4m to the company.
Its commercial director Sam McLaren said the company was "delighted" with Stagecoach's announcement.
"The open-top double deck vehicles are the first purpose-built buses of this type ever to be ordered by Stagecoach."
Mr McLaren added: "The order is welcome news and, whilst it will not create any new jobs as such, it will sustain existing employment as it contributes to the order book for the coming year.
"It also gives us the opportunity to further build our relationship with this internationally-recognised public transport group and one of the UK's biggest bus and coach operators."
The new buses and coaches will be introduced in Stagecoach's regional networks in England, Scotland and Wales.
Stagecoach group chief executive Martin Griffiths said: "Our focus is on delivering practical improvements to make travel even better for our customers.
"We are continuing to re-invest money from fares in state-of-the-art, cleaner, greener vehicles, digital technology and smart ticketing to deliver an even higher standard of service.
"These latest vehicle orders are an important part of our strategy to encourage even more people to take the bus."
Other bus manufacturers who are benefiting from the Stagecoach deals include Scania, Plaxton and Caetano.
Stephen Kelly, chief executive of Manufacturing NI, said he was "very pleased" to hear about this latest order for Wrightbus.
"The company has proved to be an industry leader when it comes to public transport so it's no surprise that an industry leader such as Stagecoach has chosen to buy from Wrightbus," he said.
Wrightbus has plans for a major expansion of its factory premises in Ballymena.
It wants to add a car park for 600 vehicles, and has plans to build 75 new homes on the area of land at the rear of its Fenaghy Road plant.
The company has occupied the current site for around three decades.
Planners say that "due to its considerable success" it has been "developed to its maximum capacity".
Late last year, Wrights Group also struck a deal to buy the JTI Gallaher plant in Ballymena when the production line at the cigarette manufacturer halts later this year.
The company was founded by William Wright - who is still involved in the business - and his father Robert in 1946.