First Group set to scrap several Borders bus services
Many bus users in the Borders could find themselves marooned if operator First Group goes ahead with proposals to cut a swathe of services.
From August 14, Hawick Town services 75, 76 and 77 all face complete cancellation, as does the Hawick to Galashiels Borders College bus.
Services between Galashiels and several towns are to disappear altogether as follows: Service 61 to Oxton; service 67 to St Boswells; service 68 to Howdenburn, the hourly service 73 to Bannerfield, and services 8 and 9 to Melrose.
The X95 between Carlisle and Edinburgh is also badly hit. At the moment it runs every half hour between Hawick and Edinburgh, and every hour to and from Carlisle. Under the proposed changes, it will only run hourly between Galashiels and Edinburgh.
Another town service to be closed down under the proposals is the 90A in Peebles.
The Southern understands First has bore the brunt of considerable losses following the reopening of the Borders Railway.
Services in East Lothian will also be cancelled – and First Group has said the cuts will be required to keep the company viable – including saving what services are left in the Borders area.
A spokesperson for First Borders said: “We appreciate this will be unwelcome news for our customers, however, operations in the area have not been viable for a number of years.
“Despite working hard to turn the business around, insufficient passenger demand, the continuing challenging economy and strong competition in places have all contributed to the proposed withdrawal from East Lothian which may also lead to the withdrawal of a number of services in the Borders.
“Our proposal is very much based on sustaining the wider business, including operations in other parts of the Borders.
“We have already met with Borders Council to discuss bus provision in the area and no decisions will be taken until we have completed a full and detailed consultation, including with our staff and the trade union.”
A Scottish Borders Council spokesperson said: “First Scotland East informed the council this week of its proposals as part of an overall review of its South East of Scotland operations.
“We will be considering these proposals during the four-week consultation period First are required to undertake with the council.
“Anyone who wishes to make their views known on the proposals should contact First directly.
“The council will be consulting separately on its subsidised bus services later this summer.”
However, councillor Stuart Marshall said that something had to be done before services in Hawick disappeared.
He told us: “This is a very worrying situation developing here and I am urging Scottish Borders Council to assess as a matter of urgency what the impact will be for Hawick and surrounding areas.
With no prospect of the railway being extended to Hawick in the near future then I’m firmly of the opinion that we should be supporting an enhancement of our public transport network, not watching it potentially disappear before our very eyes.”