Fight goes on to save under-threat bus service through Borders

A 101 Stagecoach bus heading east through West Linton.
A 101 Stagecoach bus heading east through West Linton.

The fight to save a bus service feared to be nearing the end of the road is being stepped up a gear.

Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale MSP Christine Grahame has issued a plea to save Stagecoach’s 101/102 Edinburgh-Dumfries service at Holyrood, and a protest petition has won the backing of more than 2,200 signatories.

The service faces the axe in August due to Scottish Borders Council’s plans to cut its £135,000 contribution towards its £391,000 annual running costs by £100,000.

Discussions are ongoing between the council and Borders Buses about the firm taking over the stretch of the under-threat route from Biggar to Edinburgh, however.

Ms Grahame now plans to discuss the future of the route with Scottish Government transport minister Humza Yousaf after raising the issue with Nicola Sturgeon at First Minister’s questions last Thursday.

She asked Ms Sturgeon: “Does the First Minister share my concern that the Tory-led Scottish Borders Council is reducing its share of funding for the bus service 101/102, withdrawing its contribution of just over £135,000 in favour of a measly £35,000, which will affect many of my constituents in places such as West Linton and Penicuik?

“Does the First Minister agree that that flies in the face of encouraging the use of public transport, and will she raise the matter with the minister for transport and the islands?”

Ms Sturgeon told her: “Those are matters for the local council. However, I can well understand that the situation that Christine Grahame has outlined will be of concern to people in her constituency.”

Ms Grahame said afterwards: “Many constituents have contacted me about the 101/102 as it forms a vital transport link along the A702, serving Dolphinton, West Linton, Carlops, Silverburn and Penicuik in my constituency alone.

“The loss of this service would be completely unacceptable and flies in the face of encouraging the use of public transport and the efforts made to ensure the elderly and some vulnerable adults can travel for free.

“This is why I have raised this issue with the First Minister, and I am pleased she has raised it with Humza Yousaf.

“I understand that Borders Buses is currently in discussions with the council to look at the possibility of taking this route over, which I would support.

“The council has taken decisions which potentially disconnect local communities from lifeline services, and I would hope that in any negotiations regarding funding of the route, these issues will also be given due weight together with the passenger numbers.

“The future of this service must be ensured.”

She is being joined in her calls to save the service by neighbouring Clydesdale MSP Aileen Campbell and Scottish National Party South Scotland list MSP Joan McAlpine, as well as Age Scotland.

Brian Sloan, chief executive of the charity, said: “This bus service can be a real lifeline for older people who don’t have access to other forms of transport.

“Cutting the service will make it harder for them to reach essential services and take part in community activities, contributing to loneliness and isolation.

“We understand that funding is tight but would urge the Scottish Borders Council to consider the impact on local communities.”

Ms Campbell added: “For Scottish Borders Council to withdraw its contribution would represent a substantial and unacceptable loss to the overall funding and risks putting the future of the service in jeopardy.

“I have written to Scottish Borders Council urging it to reconsider this decision and put the interests of bus users first, and I have called on all funders of the service to leave no stone unturned in order to secure this crucial service.”

Almost 2,250 people have signed an online petition set up by Tweeddale West councillor Heather Anderson calling for the route to be saved.

Her petition can be found at www.change.org/p/scottish-borders-council-don-t-cut-our-bus-service?recruiter=12659793

The current Monday to Saturday service offers six return journeys from Dumfries to Edinburgh, four via the 101 route through Moffat and two via the 102 route taking in Thornhill, plus a further six returns from Biggar to Edinburgh.

On Sundays, there are two returns from Dumfries to Edinburgh, one via each route, and a further two Biggar-to-Edinburgh returns.