The announcement of a multi-million pound contract for zero and low emission buses from Ballymena company Wrightbus, has been welcomed by the Mayor of Mid and East Antrim Borough, Councillor Peter Johnston.

Infrastructure (DfI) Minister, Nichola Mallon, described the investment of around £66 million by her department as a ‘significant leap forward’ in the decarbonisation of public transport in Northern Ireland.

One hundred zero emission buses comprising 80 Battery Electric Vehicles and 20 Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles, will be the most environmentally friendly of their type in Ireland, according to DfI.

They will be deployed between Metro in Belfast and Foyle Metro services in Londonderry. There will also be 45 low emissions buses for Ulsterbus services across Northern Ireland.

The investment forms a key part of Translink’s Net Zero Emissions Strategy and will be fundamental in creating cleaner and greener transport to positively impact the climate emergency and air quality.

Minister Mallon said: “Cleaner, greener, sustainable transport is key to protecting our environment and fighting the climate crisis. I have an ambitious vision for a low carbon future where we make low emission public transport accessible to people and communities across Northern Ireland.

“I have been clear since coming to office that we must act now to deliver the change that our communities and our citizens deserve.

“Following my budget announcement in June, we are now seeing the investment of almost £66 million for the purchase of zero and low emission vehicles filter down to our local economy, with Wrightbus producing the 145 new vehicles that will enter the Translink fleet and be put into public service.”

Wrightbus CEO Buta Atwal said: “We are delighted that the Department for Infrastructure and Translink has shown strong leadership in its commitment to reducing emissions.

“Investment in hydrogen, electric and low-emission buses and the wider energy sector, can only be good for jobs in Northern Ireland. We have the climate and the technology to drive fundamental change here and position Northern Ireland as a world-leader. This order of 145 buses is a significant step and we are proud to work alongside Translink to achieve these goals.”

Translink Group Chief Executive Chris Conway said: “Translink is leading the transport transformation to net zero emissions, we are responding to the climate emergency and driving positive change for a healthier and more sustainable transport for future generations.

“This bus order is just the start of an exciting new era for public transport in Northern Ireland as we work to build back responsibly following Covid-19. Investment in a new zero emission fleet is great news for everyone, helping tackle the global climate emergency we all face and improving local air quality.”

Mayor Councillor Peter Johnston added: “This announcement is a major vote of confidence in the skills, capabilities and forward vision of Wrightbus in Ballymena, who have been pioneers in the green economy of the future.

“At a time when the economy has taken a battering from the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic, today’s news will protect jobs not only in Mid and East Antrim but across all of Northern Ireland as this contract begins to rollout.”

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s Chief Executive, Anne Donaghy OBE, said: “Wrightbus have been world leaders in hydrogen and zero emission technology, and to see their drive and commitment rewarded in this way is a very welcome boost to Mid and East Antrim.

“I am delighted that one of our borough’s biggest employers is playing a key role in positioning Northern Ireland on the global stage as we work towards a cleaner and greener economy.”