Wrightbus is proud of its hydrogen bus fleet, and so should be Northern Ireland

News Letter editorial of Friday January 29 2021:
News Letter editorialNews Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

The Co Antrim vehicle maker Wrightbus has had a roller coaster existence over the last decade.

In 2009, it was chosen by the then mayor of London Boris Johnson to build the modern replacement to the old, much loved, red Routemaster buses that ran back and forth across the UK’s capital city.

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In the following years, leading British politicians often travelled to Ballymena to visit the Wrightbus factory, which was seen as a manufacturing success story in a UK that had over the previous century lost its reputation as a centre for such pioneering industry.

In more recent years, Wrightbus got into financial difficulties. It was embroiled in controversy relating to its parent company making donations to the Green Pastures Church, of which Jeff Wright was a director.

Wrightbus was in a bleak place when it went into administration in 2019, only to be bought by the Bamford family the following year. Jo Bamford, grandson of the late entrepreneur and JCB founder Jospeh Bamford, is now chair of Wrightbus.

He has aninterest in the use of hydrogen to power buses, which is timely in an age when there is so much concern about emissions and climate change. Hydrogen is a complicated but clean source of energy. Mr Bamford has praised the highly skilled workforce he inherited in Co Antrim.

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In a thrilling development, Wrightbus has created the world’s first hydrogen-powered double decker bus fleet, launched for use in Aberdeen, Scotland.

Mr Bamford says “everyone at Wrightbus is incredibly proud” of the new fleets. And so should be everyone in Northern Ireland. For decades, particularly during the Troubles, Northern Ireland became too dependent on subsidies from London. But we are a population with an innovative history.

Anything — from cyber security to film making to vehicle manufacturing —that builds upon that skilled industrial past and helps orientate NI towards a more productive and economically self sufficient future is very much to be celebrated.

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Alistair Bushe