It was the bus manufacturer cast into the limelight after winning contracts worth hundreds of millions of pounds to build the Boris Bus, the reimagination of the red Routemaster buses, for London when Boris Johnson, the prime minister, was the capital’s mayor.
However, Wrightbus, one of Northern Ireland’s largest private sector employers, has fallen into insolvency with the loss of more than 1,200 jobs. Eight years on from the orders for new Routemasters, of which 1,000 have been delivered to the London market, Wrightbus has been put into administration.
The Wright family, which controls the business founded in 1946 by Sir William Wright, blamed the fast-shifting sands of the automotive industry, saying “global changes from diesel to electric in bus technology have caused a sharp decline in demand for buses in the UK.”
The Boris Bus was reckoned to be the most expensive bus order in history when Mr Johnson ordered five prototypes at £1.6 million each. They were designed as a new breed of diesel-electric hybrids, but technical flaws meant they were more diesel than electric. Poor air conditioning had them renamed by passengers as Toastmasters. At £330,000 apiece, Transport for London has long since stopped ordering them.
Wrightbus said it had been tipped into significant losses as it attempted to reshore production from a plant in Malaysia to its Ballymena home. Michael Magnay and Peter Allen of Deloitte, the professional services firm, have been appointed as joint administrators.