Wrightbus on brink of rescue deal

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.

West Yorks explores deal for First business

Members of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) last week backed a probe that will explore options arising from the sale of First West Yorkshire, including, but not limited to, potentially participating in the sale of the business.

It follows similar moves by councillors in Aberdeen and Glasgow who are currently exploring options to acquire First operations in those cities as a result of the transport group’s decision to investigate options for its withdrawal from the UK bus market.

Alan Reiss, WYCA’s director of policy, strategy and communications, said journeys on First West Yorkshire buses constitute 70% of all bus journeys in West Yorkshire. With Deutsche Bahn’s decision to sell Arriva, which has a further 18% of the local market, the combined authority wanted to explore the options available to invest in it to “secure the continuity and growth of bus services in West Yorkshire”.

The WYCA has approved spending of up to £200,000 on technical and legal advice to support the plans. Commitment to any further expenditure would be subject to further approval from members.

Germans go green by taxing planes to fund trains

The German government now plans to almost double taxes on short-haul flights under its programme to reduce emissions, a bigger increase than had been expected.

The higher taxes form part of a climate package aimed making Germany carbon neutral by 2050 and are accompanied by measures to promote public transport use.

The government had planned smaller increases as recently as earlier this month, but this prompted criticism from climate activists and industry groups.

An official at the German finance ministry this week said that the tax on domestic and intra-European flights would rise to €13.03 from €7.50, while for medium-haul flights it would rise to €33.01 from €23.43 and for long-haul flights to €59.43 from €42.18.

The official said that Germany could expect an additional tax take of around €740m (£639m) once the new taxes come into force in April. The proceeds will mainly be used to finance tax relief on train tickets.

Under the latest version of the plans, value-added tax on train tickets will fall from 19% to 7% from January 1, 2020, making tickets around 10% cheaper.

Launched in June, DB’s ‘Strong Rail’ strategy envisages doubling rail patronage and capacity in support of the federal government’s greenhouse gas reduction targets. State-owned DB is already the largest green-power consumer in Germany, drawing 57% of its energy from renewables and the company has set itself even higher goals with a target to increase this figure to 100% by 2038.

About the Author

This post was written by Robert Jack. Robert is Managing Editor and Publisher of Passenger Transport. He has worked as a journalist, editor and publisher in the passenger transport sector for 18 years. He has played a key role in many transport-related conferences and events.

Robert Jack

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