BALLYMENA bus maker Wright Group is expected to land an order to build 600 ‘new Routemaster’ buses as London Mayor Boris Johnson said they would become “as iconic in London as phone boxes, Big Ben and Beefeaters”.
The Wrightbus redesign of the 1950s classic double-decker was selected in a competition launched in 2009 by Mr Johnson and eight of the innovative hybrid power vehicles went into service in the capital earlier this year.
On Thursday the city’s transit authority Transport for London (TfL) formally approved the purchase of 600 new hybrid buses and, although it has not officially named Wrightbus, the flamboyant mayor left little doubt about the likely choice.
“These magnificent vehicles not only ooze London style but are a testament to British design, engineering and above all innovation,” he said.
“Not only do they deliver significant environmental benefits, they also reinstate the traditional hop-on, hop-off rear platform and passengers love them. By ordering large numbers of these fantastic machines we are also creating UK jobs.
“I promised an expansion of the existing fleet and I am confident they will be as iconic in London as phone boxes, Big Ben and Beefeaters.”
Once awarded, the contract is expected to be run over four years and undoubtedly bring jobs to the winning firm.
Confirming that the two parties were in talks, Wright Group spokesman Claire Coulter stressed that no contract had been agreed but was upbeat. “We are certainly hopeful of good news very soon,” she said.
Quite apart from the publicity surrounding the style of the new bus, the order itself represents the largest order of hybrid buses ever placed in Europe and provides an unrivalled platform for Wrightbus to show off its capabilities to the world.
North Antrim MP Ian Paisley said the order represented a significant boost to the local economy.
“The ability of Wrightbus to secure these kind of orders comes from the company’s innovation and commitment to quality,” he said.
“It is this kind of high quality and high value engineering which can ensure that Northern Ireland companies can compete with, and beat the best in the world to secure contracts.”
MLA Jim Allister said: “This is further tribute to the excellent product, workforce and management of Wrightbus. We are so fortunate to have this innovative and progressive company in north Antrim, providing stable and skilled jobs.”