Transport Secretary admires green credentials of bus giant Wrightbus in Ballymena visit
Wrightbus in Ballymena is to send around 50 of its environmentally-friendly buses to Yorkshire next year after its customers benefited from a Department for Transport scheme.
The company, which employs around 1,800 people in the Co Antrim town, has built over 70 of its low-emission vehicles with the help of funding from the low emission bus scheme, which gives support to local authorities and bus operators.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling visited the plant yesterday, where he saw the manufacture of low-emission vehicles.
Wrightbus chairman Mark Nodder told the Belfast Telegraph: "Over the last year or so we have built around 70 buses with support from the Department for Transport. Some of them were built on Volvo chassis while some were built as complete Wrightbus products." And deals for the sale of some of the buses to operator FirstGroup were worth £14m to the Northern Ireland company, Mr Nodder said.
"For 2018, we have received orders for in the region of 50 buses. We'll be delivering those to Leeds and Sheffield next year."
He added that all the company's buses were now low emission.
"We went to great pains to demonstrate to the Secretary of State that every bus is low emission by definition," he said.
The firm has developed the world's first hydrogen-powered double-decker, and is also making electric models.
During his visit to the factory - where he met Wrightbus founder William Wright, and was shown around by managing director Dr Lorraine Rock - the Mr Grayling said: "I am determined to push forward with a green revolution in transport, and low emission buses are an important part of our plans.
"We have already provided funding for over 450 low emission buses through the Low Emission Bus Scheme, with hundreds more to be funded by the next round of the scheme, which we will be launching in the coming months.
"New greener buses will be more comfortable for passengers, they are cost-efficient and are good for the environment.
"It has been fascinating to witness first-hand how these vehicles are made."
Last month, group company Wrights Group reported a 4% fall in turnover to £264.4m for 2016.
It also had a 9% fall in pre-tax profits to £10.7m.
But in a strategic report filed with the results, Mr Nodder said that in general terms, the group was performing well despite economic uncertainty and exchange rate fluctuations.
"Our expanding customer base and comprehensive product range have ensured stability and modest growth," he said.
The firm also spent £6.5m on research and development, up from £6.1m the year before. The company said that "continued investment in research and development... position the group to take advantage of increasing demand for low and zero emission buses".
Last year the company bought the Galgorm Road site of tobacco firm Gallaher's after it closed.