Boris pledges to save Wrightbus

New Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has vowed the government will do “everything we can” to ensure the future of Wrightbus.

As reported last week (see B&CB 1540, 26 July 2019), Wrightbus is considering seeking new investors. The Ballymena, County Antrim-based manufacturer has drafted Deloitte to advise on this process.

A statement from Wrights Group said: “As Wrightbus continues to expand its global customer base, there is increased complexity to tailor our products to the climate, territory and operating characteristics of our diverse customer base. To strengthen the company’s ability to accelerate its development of these new technologies Deloitte is working with the company to explore the potential of bringing on board an investor. This is to ensure that the skills and talents of our Ballymena workforce continue to deliver cutting-edge transport vehicles to our customers near and far. The company continues to win new business and this is evident in the recent uptake of our zero emission fuel cell vehicles bolstering a strong 2019 order book.”

DUP party MP for North Antrim, Ian Paisley, asked the Prime Minister in the House of Commons last week: “The Prime Minister will know that, in order to make the United Kingdom the home of electric vehicles, he will need to protect the intellectual property of those making the electric vehicles. Will he therefore step in and save Wrightbus – a company that he is very familiar with – which is facing significant economic hardship at present? Will he make that a priority?”

Boris Johnson responded with: “It is a great pity, in my view, that the current Mayor of London – not a patch on the old guy – decided to cancel the contract with Wrightbus of ​Ballymena, which has been of great value to the people of this country. I give the honourable Gentleman an assurance that we will do everything we can to ensure the future of that great UK company.”

Further political support

In a statement published in Ballymena Daily, Mid and East Antrim Borough Councillor, Timothy Gaston, urged support for Wrightbus. He said: “I have been working with Wrightbus on behalf of the Council over the last number of months and like everybody within our community, I know the vital role they play at the heart of the Ballymena economy.

“The future of the bus sector is the new zero emission fuel cell vehicles, which sees Wrightbus placed ahead in the market. In order to continue to develop the new technologies right here in Ballymena, it’s vital that all the key stakeholders play their part in securing the future of Wrightbus.

“For example, Translink requires additional buses to maintain the standard and average age of its fleet. I trust the Department for Infrastructure will play their part in helping to support the future of this crucial business in Ballymena by financially backing Translink to better their fleet. Our new Prime Minister Boris Johnson helped boost the Wrightbus brand with the Boris Bus, and I trust he will play his part from Westminster in helping to support the company moving forward.”

North Antrim TUV politician, Jim Allister, tweeted: “Imperative Wrightbus prospers. Believe government could do more to help by funding the framework contract with Translink to get further buses started.”

In the Belfast News Letter, Jim was reported as saying: “The company holds a contract with Translink to build further buses for them in the long-term. The Department for Infrastructure can play their part by can expediting these orders to fill the interim gap. Take the Translink fleet in Ballymena itself. It is among the oldest in the whole fleet, so there is a need to replace buses. Wrightbus is perfectly positioned to do that; it would be a prudent expenditure to help the liquidity of the company by speeding up those Translink orders.”

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