Camelon firm’s China deal will deliver

ADL's hybrid buses have been key to its growth
ADL's hybrid buses have been key to its growth

On April 1 2004 - ironically ‘All Fools Day’ - they were facing the dole - on the jobs scrapheap because bungling bosses had racked up millions in debt and forced to put the business into administration.

But now hundreds of workers with bus builder Alexander Dennis Limited in Camelon are looking forward to a secure future as their forward-thinking management take the company to new heights.

Just weeks after announcing it was on track to celebrate its best-ever trading year and post record turnover, the largest British-owned bus and coach manufacturer in the UK that employs 1000 people locally, has secured a major partnership with the Chinese to bring zero-emission electric vehicles to the world.

The deal with battery technology experts BYD will produce 200 single deck buses a year for the next 10 years and is worth £660 million.

But if discussions between the sides to eventually include double deckers in the package come to fruition - and they are already at an advanced stage - there is potential to triple that to nearly £2 billion.

The transformation in the workers’ fortunes in little over a decade is staggering.

Alexander Dennis was formed as Transbus International on January 1, 2001 when the Mayflower Corporation who owned both merged with the rival builders Henlys Group who owned Plaxton.

Transbus inherited a number of factories across the UK, including Alexanders in Glasgow Road and Belfast, Plaxton centres in Anston and Scarborough, the former Northern Counties factory in Wigan and the Dennis operation in Guildford.

They produced bus and coach chassis and bodies, including the Dennis Dart, one of the all-time best selling buses in the UK, as well as fire engines.

But on March 31, 2004 it all went badly wrong and facing mounting debts, Mayflower placed Transbus International in administration putting hundreds of local jobs on the line.

After weeks of uncertainty, successful businessmen David Murray of Glasgow Rangers and Murray International Metals, and Brian Souter, co-founder of the Stagecoach Group, joined a consortium headed by merchant bank Noble Grossart to buy Alexander and Dennis and ADL was formed.

It won major orders from UK operators, protected its traditional markets in Hong Kong and started to build its share of sales in North America and beyond, but it was the decision to invest in ground-breaking technology and launch a fleet of environmentally friendly buses that made the big difference.

Today Sir Brian’s Highland Global Transport investment vehicle owns 55 per cent of the company, Noble Grossart is still involved and chief executive Colin Robertson also holds a stake in a business that supports 2300 ADL jobs.

After details of its biggest-ever joint venture was announced, he predicted: “This is the start of an exciting journey with enormous potential. The combined strengths of ADL and BYD create a powerful new alliance. I look forward to the relationship flourishing.”