Visiting Wrightbus’ Ballymena factory to see the production of previously ordered new electric double decker buses – due to appear on London’s roads in October – the Mayor reiterated how thousands of jobs around the UK linked to major transport projects in London could be at risk if TfL does not get the longer-term funding it needs.
The high specification buses, ordered by Abellio London, are the first electric double deckers to be manufactured for London in Northern Ireland and will be rolled out in October on the route 111, linking Kingston to Heathrow – adding another 30 double decker electric buses to the capital’s roads.
This forms part of the Mayor’s ongoing commitment to clean up London’s buses to improve its toxic air and tackle the climate emergency. There are already around 750 electric and zero emissions buses on the streets of London, and with sustained government funding London could have a fully zero-emission fleet by 2030 – one of the Mayor’s key aims.
England’s first hydrogen double decker buses, which Sadiq launched on London’s streets in June last year, were also manufactured by Wrightbus in Ballymena. These buses are helping to reduce TfL’s carbon footprint and further reduce harmful emissions to help ensure Londoners breathe cleaner air.
The innovation and technology used for the high specification buses is based in Ballymena. Wrightbus has a large engineering team in the town with around 90 people in R&D, and it also funds 35 research posts at Belfast’s Queen’s University. The company currently employs 25 apprentices and is recruiting more.
The contract for these buses is supporting around 800 jobs linked to skilled manufacturing, with plans to now expand the workforce. Highlighting the demand for zero emission vehicles, production at the Wrightbus factory has switched from 30 per cent zero emission buses in 2021 to almost 70 per cent in 2022. Overall production at the factory will be almost double this year compared to last year, driven largely by the desire for zero emission buses.
Ballymena’s Wrightbus factory is a prime example of how TfL’s supply chain stretches around the country, alongside two other main bus manufacturers covering Leeds (Switch) and Scarborough and Falkirk (ADL), creating jobs, capacity and certainty for the wider national zero emission bus market. TfL contracts support tens of thousands of jobs outside London and contribute around £7bn to the UK economy, with 55 pence of every pound spent on London Underground investment going outside of London – indicating how essential sustained funding for TfL is to the wider UK economy.
Throughout the pandemic the Government has refused to provide TfL with a long-term funding deal that would allow it to invest for the future, and TfL is forced to plan for a ‘managed decline’ scenario that would see services cut and bus orders stalled. The Government has now finally agreed to provide TfL with an “outline proposal“ for capital support this month – but it is essential that this proposal provides the proper funding TfL need to support the transport network in London and the thousands of jobs this provides around the UK. While a London-style bus system should be the norm in other major UK cities, it is in no-one’s interests for the London bus network to begin to fall into decay.
The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, said:
“Londoners will soon seethe all-electric buses we previously ordered built at this Ballymena factory on the capital’s roads, adding to our ever increasing zero-emissions bus fleet and illustrating how investment in our capital can support innovation and jobs in green technology across the country.