Wrightbus workforce will swell to 500, says new boss
The new owner of Ballymena bus company Wrightbus has said the workforce should grow to 500 early next year as he gets to grips with the acquisition.
Jo Bamford of Bamford Bus Company bought the business out of administration last month.
In an interview with The Times, he said that the future of Wrightbus would require both battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cells.
"We are in an energy transition," he added.
"The world is changing. There is a future in zero emissions."
He said he believed the next government should get behind hydrogen and enable Britain to lead the way in hydrogen fuel-cell technology.
Mr Bamford is in the process of hiring staff and said he hopes to have 500 staff back in place next year. The 48 staff he inherited is due to grow to 120 next week as the firm clears a legacy £13m order of 55 buses for Leeds.
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The planned recruitment of up to 500 staff will aim to deliver up to 700 buses next year. Around 1,400 staff were made redundant when the business first went into administration.
Mr Bamford also said he will retain the Wrightbus marque.
"It is a well-recognised, great British brand," he said.
"We are proud that it is a British-owned bus manufacturer, the last British-owned bus manufacturing.
"I am doing what my dad does and what my grandfather did before us: manufacturing, being in a factory, something you can touch and feel."
Mr Bamford admitted he didn't want a bus company when DUP MP Ian Paisley called him about buying Wrightbus but once he got there he could "understand the puzzle in front of me".
He also indicated that he didn't share his father Lord Bamford's affection for the Conservative party or belief in the Brexit cause.
Writing in today's Business Telegraph, Chris Guy, head of corporate at law firm Mills Selig, which acted for Bamford Bus Company Limited in the deal, said the purchase "stirred up a media storm given its local history, number of employees and its contribution to the local economy".
"The deal presented a number of complexities given the extent of the business, involvement of multiple parties and time pressures arising from the business being in administration," he added.
"However, we approached these hurdles constructively to ensure a successful outcome for our client and indeed the business itself, which has resulted in the retention of bus manufacturing in Ballymena.
"The future looks promising for the firm and we look forward to being able to further support it."