Jim Allister: Speed up Translink bus orders to help Wrightbus

A Wrightbus vehicle
A Wrightbus vehicle

A Stormont department could play a “crucial role” in helping to secure the future of Ballymena-based bus manufacturer Wrightbus, an MLA has claimed.

The Co Antrim firm – which employs around 1,400 staff in NI – confirmed it is seeking a new investor and has brought in consultants Deloitte amid reports it is facing financial woes.

TUV leader Jim Allister said the firm is experiencing a cashflow problem and has called on the Department for Infrastructure to “play its part” to support the business by providing financial backing to Translink.

The North Antrim MLA told the News Letter: “From what I understand, the firm’s long-term order book is quite good, but the problem seems to be the short-term.

“There is a lack of work and obviously huge overheads at the same time, which is creating a cashflow problem.

“The company holds a contract with Translink to build further buses for them in the long-term.

“The Department for Infrastructure can play their part by can expediting these orders to fill the interim gap.

“Take the Translink fleet in Ballymena itself. It is among the oldest in the whole fleet, so there is a need to replace buses.

“Wrightbus is perfectly positioned to do that it would be a prudent expenditure to help the liquidity of the company by speeding up those Translink orders.”

Meanwhile, DUP MP Ian Paisley said he will ask the new PM Boris Johnson to step in and help Wrightbus.

He told BBC News NI: “It needs cash to keep running, and to pay its talented workforce.

“I’ve already contacted Boris Johnson’s office - I had spoken to him before about this, but now he is in a position of influence I will be asking the government to make a major intervention to try and help this company.”

Trade union Unite, which represents workers at Wrightbus, yesterday held what it described as “meaningful discussions” with the company about the future of the business.

The union said the meeting “did not include any mention of redundancies.”