As Boris Johnson says, Wrightbus is a great UK company

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial
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Wrightbus has told this newspaper that it believes it still has a strong future in Ballymena.

Let us hope so.

It has been reported recently that the Co Antrim coach builder could enter administration.

While administration is not quite the end of the line, entering that phase would nonetheless be a massive blow to Ballymena and to Northern Ireland.

Wrightbus has been one of the most vivid manufacturing success stories in the province.

It has been a beacon of hope amid the loss of the nearby major businesses Michelin and Gallaghers, and a possible reduction in Moy Park production locally.

There is a particular poignancy to the current difficulty at Wrightbus, given that it built the Routemasters for London, on behalf of the then mayor, Boris Johnson, a man who has just become prime minister.

Mr Johnson was such a fan that he came over the factory and was photographed taking delivery of some of the vehicles. A keen cyclist, he had wanted to replace the famous hop-on hop-off red buses in the capital city, albeit a modern version. Wrightbus was the company that he chose to realise that dream.

The NI businessman Darren Donnelly has confirmed that he is trying to buy the company.

Mr Johnson has spoken recently about the difficulties facing Wrightbus. “It was of great value to the people of this country and I think it’s a great company and we will make sure, I give my assurance, we will do everything we can to ensure the future of that great UK company,” he said.

This is more than justified commentary.

Britain was once a great manufacturing nation for machines, from ships to trains and later cars and buses and lorries too. Wrightbus is a shining exception to the decline of that tradition.