Wrightbus unveils European growth plan

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Wrightbus says it plans to increase production from 22 per week to 26. WRIGHTBUS

The Northern Irish firm has plans to double its workforce and ramp up production to 26 buses per week

Wrightbus has unveiled plans for more jobs and widespread European expansion following what it says have been 12 months of strong growth. Named Northern Ireland’s fastest-growing business by Growth Index, Wrightbus CEO Jean-Marc Gales says the firm has its sights set on further expansion.

“The business is growing very fast and I am really proud of what we have achieved over the last 12 months because every order, whether home or abroad, guarantees jobs back in Ballymena,” he explained. “We are the number one zero-emission bus maker in the UK. A year ago, we had 200 zero-emission buses on the road. Today, we have over 700 and in the next year we will get to 1,700. No-one else comes close.”

The firm says 22 buses are now being produced per week compared to eight per week two years ago. It expects that figure to rise to 26 buses by the end of next year.

“It is not so long ago we had 1,000 people. By the end of the year, we will have close to 2,000 employees. After that we will grow further,” said Jean-Marc. “We are creating well paid, highly skilled jobs for the long-term; manufacturing jobs of tomorrow being created today.”

The Ballymena firm recently announced what it called a ‘milestone deal’ for 46 hydrogen buses in Germany for the city of Cottbus, following similar deals with West Verkehr, Regionalverkehr Köln (RVK), and Saarbahn, with more European orders said to be in the pipeline. “Our buses have a vital role to play in decarbonising public transport and in partnership with operators, local authorities and governments to meet their carbon reduction targets,” Jean-Marc continued. “We will continue to grow at pace as we expand our geographic and product footprints in the future, which will result in more green jobs and roles. We’re the UK leader now, and we want to become a European leader and then a world-leading company.”

Ian Paisley, the Democratic Unionist Party MP for North Antrim, added his support to the success story. “We have seen over the last five years how Wrightbus has not only generated new, well-paid, highly-skilled jobs for the people of Ballymena but shown the rest of the world the way forward in zero-emissions transport,” he said. “This is a future-facing, clean-tech manufacturing business that’s here for the long-term, thriving at the core of our community.”

As part of its growth, Wrightbus is currently recruiting 80 apprentices to add to the 50 it already employs. “Our apprentices already make a valuable contribution to our work and now we have excellent opportunities for more candidates who are ready to kick-start their careers while gaining recognised qualifications, invaluable work experience and earning as they learn,” Jean-Marc added.