The Northern Irish bus manufacturer Wrightbus has had to file for bankruptcy and has been put under receivership. The company was unable to find a buyer to continue the business in its current form.
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A total of 1,250 employees are being laid off. A former Wrightbus spokeswoman did not want to comment, instead referring to Deloitte economic advisors, who control the creditor protection proceedings. Deloitte is now administrator of the businesses within the group including Wrights Group, Wrightbus, Wright En-Drive, Wright Composites and Metallix. Wrightbus is best known for its double-decker buses, also making buses with battery-electric and fuel cell drives.
In November 2018, Wrightbus presented the “world’s first double-decker bus with fuel cell” at the Euro Bus Expo. The fuel cell bus was developed as part of the EU-funded JIVE project. Wrightbus was named as the sole supplier of fuel cell double-decker buses for Great Britain. In June of this year, Everfuel, Wrightbus, Ballard Power Systems, Hexagon Composites, Nel Hydrogen and Ryse Hydrogen joined forces to form the H2Bus consortium to provide 1,000 FC buses in European cities and the necessary infrastructure at competitive prices. Among other things, Wrightbus should contribute to cheaper vehicles. The company even wanted to expand its product range to include a double-decker bus, a 12-metre single-decker bus and an articulated bus. Just a couple of months ago, Aberdeen ordered another 15 fuel cell buses.
Currently, BYD dominates the electric bus market globally, and even Germany’s conventional automakers have failed to catch the ride as now German transport providers also buy buses from BYD and Solaris who dominate the European electric bus market. The electric bus market is experiencing exponentially increasing demand as countries electrify their public transport vehicles across the board. Specifically with fuel cell buses, fuel cell technology proving to be ideal for large vehicle and long-haul transport. Just this week, Hyundai gave details of its fuel-cell truck and hydrogen infrastructure stemming out from Switzerland with Hydrospider, and US fuel cell truck company Nikola just won huge investments from players like Bosch and CNH Industrial. Just this month, the long-distance bus travel operator Flixbus and the technology specialist Freudenberg Sealing Technologies (FST) just announced their intent to launch operations with fuel cell buses in a joint project.
Wrightbus was not able to hold back job losses as an expected sale evaporated at the end of last week when the Chinese engineering group Weichai and a firm led by the JCB heir, Jo Bamford, pulled out of talks. This double blow came just days after the Northern Irish businessman Darren Donnelly also refrained from making a bid for the firm.
It is unclear how Wrightbus will continue. Administrators said that just 50 jobs will be retained at the firm. Employee representatives appealed to Prime Minister Boris Johnson to intervene to save the company. Wrightbus is the last UK-owned bus manufacturer, as well as being one of Northern Ireland’s biggest employers.
Jackie Pollock, regional secretary of Unite, the British and Irish trade union, added: “the government must intervene to save jobs and skills”. Pollock maintains that “The administrator will need to find someone of calibre and of real standing who has the wherewithal and the skill to take this company on.”
Deloitte said they would “review all remaining options for the business and assets” and encourage all parties with interest to contact them.
Update 11 October 2019: There has since been a new development with former bidder Jo Bramford being back in the picture. He now said an agreement had been reached with “the Wright family for the Wrightbus factory and land” that only awaits the conclusion.
Update 02 November 2019: Bamford Bus Company is taking over the operations and assets of Wrightbus. This has now been confirmed by the consulting firms Deloitte and PwC involved in the deal.
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