New Wrightbus owner buoyant over future

Jo Bamford, the new owner of Wrightbus, is embarking on rebuilding the company after saving it from going bust.

The firm last year went into administration under the ownership of the Wright family, when 1,200 jobs were feared to be lost.

The hydrogen entrepreneur bought the Ballymena-based bus manufacturer in October, and told the Independent.ie that he now has a challenge on his hands.

Mr Bamford said he is aiming to rebuild the company, as well as respond to the need for zero-emissions technology in business.

Jo Bamford

Mr Bamford spoke to the Independent.ie last week at an event in Belfast, in which the firm launched a pilot for three fuel cell electric double-decker buses powered by hydrogen.

“We’ve got a half-full order book for the year and some wonderfully loyal customers who have been fantastic for us,” Mr Bamford said. “The reality for any business is that customers make pay day happen and our customers have been wonderful to us. We now have to provide them with the best bus, the best zero-emissions solution for the future.”

While battery power and hydrogen are the key zero-emissions options, Mr Bamford said Wrightbus will continue to make diesel buses as long as there is demand.

“We at Wrightbus need to have a foot in every zero-emissions camp, and the reality is that there are two solutions, the hydrogen and the battery.

“One does short routes, which is batteries, and the other does long routes, which is hydrogen. We’re putting our energies into both.

“There will still be use for diesel; it’s got 120 years of research and development, and it’s still a cheap and good solution.”

The 42-year-old added that the company is working on providing 20 hydrogen-fuelled buses in London and 15 in Aberdeen, while Birmingham is also expected to sign up.

In relation to targets, Mr Bamford said “it depends on how many orders I get and how good I am at running around selling stuff.

“Business for me is about being a good citizen. A business should live within its means, make enough profit to reinvest in itself, be as good to its workforce as it can and have a product that the market would like.”

Mr Bamford told Independent.ie that he is committed to maintaining the Wrightbus name, and stressed that Bamford Bus Company was just a vehicle to buy the business.

While Wrightbus built virtually all of the 1,000 vehicles used by Dublin Bus, as well as the majority of Translink’s fleet in Belfast, Mr Bamford said there are 1,200 Wrightbuses in Hong Kong and 700 in Singapore, and added “the world is our market”.

Jo Bamford is the grandson of Joseph Bamford, the founder of JCB, which is now run by his son, and Jo’s father, Anthony Bamford.