No decision on subsidies

Galashiels Transport Interchange between Ladhope Vale and Stirling Street.
Galashiels Transport Interchange between Ladhope Vale and Stirling Street.

A new report has been ordered into the operational viability of the £5.2million Galashiels Transport Interchange.

The three-storey facility, due to open in June, will be run by Scottish Borders Council, which has already pumped £3.4million into the project, with the balance met from European funding.

A report on the building’s business model from project manager Ewan Doyle was due to be presented to a full meeting of the council on April 2, but the document, asking councillors to approve a subsidy of 93p for every outgoing bus journey, was pulled at the last minute.

Mr Doyle estimated the departure charge levied on bus operators should be £2.68 excluding VAT, compared to the 35p charge for each journey out of the town’s old bus station in Stirling Street.

He said that without the subsidy, which would reduce the charge to £1.75, there was a risk bus operators would boycott the facility which, from September, will also service rail passengers.

Mr Doyle revealed that tenants of the building, which will open 21 hours a day and be staffed around the clock, would have to pay a service charge to the council of £60 per square metre.

Also withdrawn from the April 2 meeting was a private paper understood to contain details of the cost to the council of the bus subsidy, the predicted income and expenditure of the interchange, the tenancy uptake and an “estimated deficit” on running costs.

This week, a single updated report on the operating model was presented to a session of SBC’s executive, a spokesperson explaining it had been taken in private “to allow commercially-sensitive information, which is required for councillors to make an appropriate and informed decision, to be heard”.

But it transpires that, after a 30-minute discussion, no such decision was taken and yet another report has been ordered.

“A decision of the Galashiels Transport Interchange was deferred by the executive committee and further information was requested,” said the spokesperson yesterday.

“It has not yet been decided if the report will go the executive or the full council or whether it will be considered in private or public.”

It is understood the “further information” relates to the position of bus operators regarding the proposed charges which will be levied against them.

A spokesperson for the region’s principal operator First Group told The Southern: “The new bus station is a much improved facility for the area. We’re aware of ongoing discussions regarding departure charges and await the outcome with interest.”