The international arm of Northern Ireland bus-maker Wrightbus was today celebrating two landmark orders to produce a total of 45 buses for markets in the Far East from its factory in Malaysia.
Worth £8m, the low emission diesel buses will be destined for the streets of Hong Kong and Japan.
It marks a significant move for the Ballymena-based business, owned by green entrepreneur Jo Bamford, which sees the orders as an opportunity to grow the profile of the Wrightbus brand as far afield as Australia.
Chief Executive Buta Atwal said the news was proof that Wrightbus was leading the way in bus technology regardless of the fuel.
“Whether it’s our world-first hydrogen bus, our near-zero emission diesel or our single-deck electric, the Wrightbus name stands for excellence in the bus world,” he explained.
“Although we have endured a complicated year like so many manufacturers across the world, these orders will help us emerge from the pandemic with confidence.”
Wrightbus, which launched the world’s first zero-emission hydrogen double decker bus in 2020, recently announced the creation of 40 new jobs in preparation for increasing production of the vehicle this year to assist global net zero ambitions and support the PM’s pledge for at least 4,000 new Zero Emission Buses to be produced during this parliament.
The recruitment drive will welcome new members of production and office staff, including coachbuilders, spray painters, welders, electrical engineers, technicians, accountants, sales staff and a project manager. Nineteen of the positions will be apprenticeships, giving a boost to opportunities for young people in the region. And an international project engineer role has also been created as the firm looks to increase sales around the world.
Nathan Hodge, who heads the Wrightbus international division, said there was growing global optimism.
“While it hasn’t got to the tender stage yet, we are having some really good discussions in Australia about hydrogen buses,” he said.
“While Australia is seen by many to be among the leaders of hydrogen technology, there is only one hydrogen bus in the country so there’s a huge amount of potential.
“Countries like Malaysia, which exports oil, will always find the cost of hydrogen or electric buses prohibitive, yet that’s where our near-zero diesel comes in.”
Mr Hodge explained that the ASEAN free-trade agreement signed last year would ensure tariff-free movement of goods from the Wrightbus factory in Malaysia.
“Naturally having a factory in the Far East enables us to be part of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) which provides tariff-free trade to the Southeast Asian Nations as well as Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.”