Great British manufacturer Wrightbus unveils plan for growth across Europe after ‘incredible’ start to 2024

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Photo credit: Wrightbus

World-beating zero-emissions UK bus manufacturer Wrightbus has unveiled plans for more jobs and widespread European expansion following 12 months of strong growth.

Named Northern Ireland’s fastest-growing business by Growth Index this month, as well as the fastest-growing bus manufacturer in Europe, Wrightbus has come a long way since it was rescued out of administration by Jo Bamford in 2019.

Now, on the back of five landmark deals in Germany, and with a workforce heading towards 2,000 people, Wrightbus CEO Jean-Marc Gales has set his sights on further expansion. He explained:

“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.

“We are the number one zero-emissions 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.” 

Production has ramped up to keep pace with orders – 22 buses being produced a week compared to eight two years ago. That figure is expected to rise to 26 buses by the end of next year. Jean-Marc continued:

“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. “We are creating well paid, highly skilled jobs for the long-term; manufacturing jobs of tomorrow being created today.”

Last week the Ballymena firm announced a milestone deal to provide 46 hydrogen buses to Germany – taking a demo bus from Belfast to showcase its reliability and range.

The Cottbus order for the Kite Hydroliner buses follow deals in Germany with West Verkehr, Regionalverkehr Köln GmbH (RVK), and Saarbahn GmbH, with more European orders 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 explained.

“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 the jobs 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.

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