The future of bus services in the Borders looks to have been secured now a takeover deal has been signed, ending weeks of uncertainty for travellers.
Borders Buses, a subsidiary of Argyll-based West Coast Motors, has bought out First Scotland East’s operations in the region.
The acquisition includes the transfer of 116 employees based at Galashiels depot and Hawick, Peebles and Kelso outstations.
All services operated by First Borders are being maintained on a like-for-like basis by Borders Buses, including the X95 service from Carlisle to Edinburgh.
The deal has also triggered an investment of £3.5m in 30 new vehicles, plus new customer real-time information and ticketing systems.
The new vehicles bought include Alexander Dennis and Optare single-deckers and Alexander Dennis double-deckers, some already in use.
Colin Craig, managing director at West Coast Motors, said: “We are delighted to confirm the purchase of First Scotland East’s operations in the Scottish Borders and welcome our new customers and colleagues on board.
“Our investment is a clear demonstration of our ongoing commitment to the Borders and beyond, and we look forward to expanding our bus network to serve new and existing customers.
“While exciting, it’s important to add that we do not underestimate the challenges which lie ahead.
“The Borders Railway has had a significant impact on the local bus network, but it represents an opportunity for local bus services to be adapted to complement and enhance the public transport network in and around the Borders.
“We look forward to this new chapter and the opportunities it brings to our business.
“We will be working closely with key stakeholders, including Scottish Borders Council, to ensure we deliver a modern, first-class bus service which meets the needs of the communities we serve.”
Borders Buses vehicleswill be painted red and cream, like those of its parent company West Coast Motors.
However, during the transition from First to Borders Buses, a range of vehicles in differing livery will operate the routes.
Initially, that will include buses hired from First Scotland East and unbranded new vehicles, as well as ones run by Berwick-based Perryman’s since its takeover of some Borders routes from First last year prior to its takeover, in turn, by West Coast Motors earlier this year.
Over the coming weeks , though, First and Perryman’s vehicles will be replaced by freshly-painted Borders Buses, many of them new.
Ticket prices will remain the same for the immediate future.
Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale MSP Christine Grahame has welcomed the transfer, saying: “I am cautiously optimistic after meeting with Colin Craig, who owns Borders Buses. His is a family-run business, and he knows the industry well.
“The investment of some £3.5m in a new fleet of buses is a strong statement of intent by the new operator, and I know this will go down well with residents in Tweeddale in particular, who have long complained of old, substandard vehicles being used on the X62 route.”
“I will be watching very closely as Borders Buses beds into the area, and I will always press for quality, reliable public transport for all of my constituents.”