More green buses down road for NI as Wrightbus powers forward

Translink’s purchase of 100 zero-emission buses from local company Wrightbus is likely to be just the beginning as the entire fleet of vehicles is phased out in favour of green energy.

Thursday, 19th August 2021, 7:01 am
Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon with Buta Atwal from Wrightbus and one of the green buses

The public sector transport provider’s director of service operations, Ian Campbell, told the News Letter how Translink aims to switch over entirely to battery-powered and hydrogen-powered vehicles by 2040.

That could provide a boost to Ballymena based Wrightbus, who announced plans to employ another 300 workers after securing a string of orders from across the UK and Ireland for its green-powered vehicles.

Mr Campbell, meanwhile, stressed that its order of 100 Wrightbus vehicles – 80 battery electric buses and 20 hydrogen-fuelled buses – was won “fair and square” by Wrightbus on the open market, but admitted being pleased its order would have economic benefits here in Northern Ireland.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

He said: “The first three hydrogen buses on the island of Ireland, from Wrightbus, went into operation for us in December of 2020.

“That was part of a project that we ran called the Northern Ireland H2 project. Energia are providing us with green hydrogen.”

He continued: “We in Translink have set about a strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emmissions by 50% by 2030, and to be net zero by 2040.

“In order to do that we have to transition from diesel-powered buses and trains to hydrogen and electric-powered vehicles. The electricity and the hydrogen will have to come from renewable sources.

“If you look at where we are now, we have to replace the Translink fleet between now and 2040. The roll-out of these zero-emissions vehicles is really the first step of that replacement programme.”

An order of 100 buses from Wrightbus, placed in December, will see the new green buses in operation in Belfast by spring, Mr Campbell said.

Asked whether the fact that Wrightbus is based in Northern Ireland had influenced Translink’s decision to buy their green vehicles, Mr Campbell said: “We have what are known as framework contracts. Wrightbus won two of the framework contracts in open competition. They won those fair and square. As a result of that we’ve been able to place these orders. There’s been no direct favours done.”

But the Translink director added: “It represents a great opportunity for Northern Ireland in that the transition that we’re going through in public transport will also generate economic growth and jobs in Northern Ireland.”

Wrightbus, meanwhile, is on track to have 930 permanent employees once the 300 new positions have been filled.