Following a breakthough in talks last week, a team has been resident in the bus manufacturer’s factory in Ballymena, preparing to restart production

 
Frozen in time: A glimpse inside the dormant Wrightbus factory

 

At the time of writing the last stage in lifting Wrightbus more or less intact out of administration was awaiting signatures on the legal documents.

A difficult week saw the main bidder, Jo Bamford, son of Lord Bamford, the billionaire owner of JCB, trade blows in the media with the Northern Ireland-based bus builder’s main shareholder, Jeff Wright, over the terms of a deal for the freehold of the factory. The land is owned by Wright, who has faced much local criticism.

Those issues were finally resolved on October 11 and some of the 1,200 Wrightbus workers who lost their jobs when the firm went into administration last month cheered and drank champagne in front of the assembled media.

Since then a team has been resident in the Wrightbus factory in Ballymena, preparing to restart production. There are significant numbers of partially completed vehicles that need to be finished.

Industry names are understood to have been quietly working to help achieve a deal. Former Wrightbus CEO Mark Nodder, his erstwhile finance chief, Patrick Hurst, and former Transport for London surface transport MD Leon Daniels have all been seen on site and active with stakeholders.

The bus industry has also been hugely supportive and that support will need to be sustained if the new company is to prosper. It will be orders that breathe new life into the company and it is hoped that the acumen of the Bamford team will bring a new discipline to the systems, administration, and production of the business.

Jo Bamford is already part of the Wrightbus story. His hydrogen business RYSE was providing the technology for two major contracts underway – EU-funded hydrogen buses for Aberdeen and London.

Still uncertain is the future of Wrightbus International which remains operating (and not in Administration) in Malaysia. Production continues of buses for KMB in Hong Kong and is believed to be supported by main contractor Volvo.

 
This article appears in the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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