MAYOR of London Boris Johnson has opened a new Wrightbus plant in Northern Ireland.
The plant will be used to build part of a new bus for London.
The Ballymena facility will make the chassis for the hybrid engine double decker.
Wrightbus are supplying 600 of the vehicles to London in a contract worth more than £200m.
Currnently 40 people are currently employed at the chassis plant in Antrim, but this is expected to increase to 90 staff.
The new bus has a design similar to the old Routemaster – dubbed the ‘Boris Bus’.
Eight of them are already in use in London and by the end of June, route 24, which passes Parliament and Trafalgar Square, will use the new vehicles exclusively.
Each bus costs around £354,500 and has an estimated lifespan of 14 years.
Boris Johnson, who was accompanied on the visit by Northern Ireland Office Secretary of State Theresa Villiers, said he believed they were good value for money.
“We will ensure these buses more than earn their keep over the next few years,” he said.
“By keeping them in harness in the capital for the entirety of their useful life, we will be extracting every last drop of value out of them.”
Transport for London (TfL), the public body which manages transport in the capital, said the new bus is the greenest diesel electric hybrid bus in the world.
TfL estimates the 600-strong fleet will reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the city by almost 20,000 tonnes a year.
The bus features three doors and two staircases which are intended to speed up the process of getting on and off the vehicle.
It also has the famous Routemaster open rear platform which will allow people to “hop-on” when a conductor is on board.
It is expected to cost an additional £37m a year to employ conductors on the buses.
Mr Johnson said the design deserves much praise.
“Aside from its Hollywood blockbuster good looks, this bus offers an unparalleled passenger experience and is helping to improve the capital’s air quality,” he said.
“It also demonstrates that we, as a nation, remain a great force in design, engineering and manufacture.”
The vehicles will be delivered over the next three years.