Another London mayor puts his faith in Ballymena-built buses

News Letter editorial on Tuesday March 8 2022:

By Editorial
Tuesday, 8th March 2022, 12:23 am
Updated Tuesday, 8th March 2022, 12:24 am
News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

It is a tribute to the quality of Wrightbus vehicles that there is cross-party support for the Ballymena buses in London.

Boris Johnson, when he was Tory mayor of the UK capital, vowed to replace the much-loved, hop-on, hop-off Routemaster red buses, which had been discontinued. He did so, with a sleek new design by Wrightbus.

Now the man who succeeded the prime minister as mayor, Sadiq Khan, is similarly enthusiastic for the Co Antrim bus maker, despite being a fierce ideological rival of Mr Johnson.

Mr Khan visited the factory yesterday to view previously ordered electric double-deckers that will be used on the streets of London later this year.

He wishes he had money to buy yet more of them.

It is a real vote of confidence in Northern Ireland manufacturing that such prestigious vehicles are built in the Province. Their production is an echo of the old industrial output of businesses such as Harland and Wolff, which constructed some of the finest ships that ever set sail.

It is encouraging to hear Mr Khan, like Mr Johnson and other visitors to Wrightbus such as the former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, talk of the bus orders in terms of a UK perspective, in which the regions and their connection to Britain’s biggest city are celebrated.

It is a pity though that the shipping or automotive industries in the UK are not what they might be, given the way that more amorphous sectors such as services have become so dominant to the overall economy.

It is even more of a pity that UK manufacturing of objects for use in a city elsewhere in the UK now has to navigate an obstacle to movement of goods and parts within the nation.

Removing that barrier, the Northern Ireland Protocol, is essential. Meanwhile NI needs to build on the reputation of these buses to show that the Province has a skill base that can reliably make some of the most pioneering, environmentally friendly public transport vehicles in the world.