Northern Ireland

Boris Johnson: London mayor confirms £62m Wrightbus order

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Media captionBoris Johnston swinging from a chassis of a bus at Wrightbus in Ballymena

An additional order for 195 Routemasters for London worth £62m has been confirmed at County Antrim firm Wrightbus.

London Mayor Boris Johnson confirmed the deal on a visit to the company on Monday.

It will secure 300 jobs at Wrightbus.

"Wrightbus has done a great job and the NI workforce has done a great job in producing buses that are not just much-loved by passengers on our streets but also at a good price," he said.

"I am aware, fully aware, of some of the difficulties that industry has had in recent times in Ballymena and I am just very proud that we are able to support a great United Kingdom business."

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Media captionLondon Mayor Boris Johnson visited the factory on Monday

Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness have welcomed the announcement.

"This latest contract not only results in almost 200 Routemaster buses servicing London but it is a timely boost for the Northern Ireland manufacturing sector," Mrs Foster said.

Mr McGuinness said the latest contract put Wrightbus in the "manufacturing fast lane".

"This follow-up order is testament to the quality of the hard work and skill of their workforce and the benefits to our economy will extend beyond the gates of Wrightbus," he added.

Image caption London Mayor Boris Johnson and First Minister Arlene Foster survey operations at the County Antrim factory
Image caption Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has also welcomed the confirmation of the order

Mr Johnson is also expected to visit two other manufacturers on Monday who supply parts for London buses and trains.

Later, he will address a business gathering hosted by the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce.

Mr Johnson backs a UK withdrawal from the European Union, but a majority of chamber members are said to support continued membership, believing a so-called Brexit would damage the local economy.

Image caption The so-called Boris bus, championed by the mayor of London, is Wrightbus's best-known product

Prime Minister David Cameron was in Northern Ireland on Saturday as part of his UK tour to persuade voters that membership of a reformed EU is in their best interests.

Earlier this month, Transport for London (TfL) gave the green light on financing the new Wrightbus order,.

The intervening weeks have been spent smoothing out the contract's finer details.

Image caption Wrightbus employs more than 1,500 people, mainly at its factory in Ballymena

TfL had been told that without the new order, Wrightbus would close its Routemaster production line in March.

Wrightbus has had two previous orders for 805 Routemasters.

The company has its headquarters in Ballymena, with another plant in Antrim, and employs about 1,500 workers.

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