Ballymena’s Wrightbus bus manufacturer has won an order to supply 300 fuel efficient vehicles to a major UK operator.
FirstGroup expects to cut the cost of fuel bills on the new machines by a tenth.
Wrightbus in Co Antrim in Northern Ireland has enjoyed massive success in recent years and managing director Mark Nodder said: “This is further great news for Wrightbus and the Northern Ireland economy.
“Hot on the heels of last year’s order to build 600 innovative double deck buses for Transport for London, this order for FirstGroup will help secure existing jobs right across our business.”
FirstGroup has ordered 301 Wrightbus StreetLite buses, 274 of which are specified with innovative “micro hybrid” technology, developed exclusively by the Ballymena based-company.
Micro hybrid technology captures the energy generated from a bus’s braking system, and redistributes this energy.
The result is a reduction in fuel consumption of up to 10%, leading to substantial savings over a bus’s typical 15-year operational service life.
Managing director of First UK Bus (a division of FirstGroup) Giles Fearnley said: “Our groundbreaking partnership with Wrightbus will deliver unsurpassed levels of fuel efficiency. In 2013 we laid down the gauntlet to bus manufacturers to work with us to minimise fuel consumption.
“Wrightbus embraced that challenge and together we’ve developed its StreetLite Micro Hybrid product.”
The chassis for the new buses will be built at Wrights Group subsidiary EN-Drive in Antrim. The bodywork will be assembled in Ballymena.
Vehicle deliveries will start during the next few months, with all buses expected to be in full operational service by early 2015.
A FirstGroup statement said it was part of a £70 million investment in 425 new buses, helping to improve reliability, reduce fuel and maintenance costs.
North Antrim Ulster Unionist MLA Robin Swann welcomed the announcement as more good news for the company.
“Wrightbus have earned a well-deserved reputation as one of the World’s leading firms in bus construction, and North Antrim is immensely proud of the company,” said Mr Swann.
“Recently it has been famous for making the replacement for London’s famous Routemaster buses and is providing over 600 buses to Transport for London and has also secured work in India.
“This latest contract from the UK bus division of FirstGroup is due to Wrightbus’s commitment to developing new technology with regard to fuel efficiency. As a result, Wrightbus will provide 301 buses to First Group from a total contract of 425 buses, and receive the lion’s share of a £70 million investment.
“This will provide work for Wrightbus in Ballymena and the firm’s subsidiary in Antrim and I am confident that the firm will go from strength to strength as a result of inspired management, an excellent and committed local workforce and its innovation, research and development.
“Wrightbus is a perfect example of what can be achieved by an indigenous local company and proof that we in Northern Ireland can compete in the global marketplace. They continue to be an inspiration and a major asset to Northern Ireland plc.”