Villagers in Borders welcome U-turn over bus cuts

Council bosses have done a U-turn over plans to cut a rural bus service after villagers complained that move would leave them stranded.

Wednesday, 19th February 2020, 12:58 pm
A 964 Border Weaver service in Newtown.

The Scottish Borders Council-run 964 Border Weaver bus currently calls at Newtown, Bowden, Melrose, Darnick, Gattonside, Tweedbank and Galashiels, going four times a day in both directions.

The local authority had said it was underused, however, and proposed running it on a much-reduced timetable from April 6, bypassing Gattonside altogether and no longer going to Tweedbank.

Now, though, the Border Weaver is set to be saved after the council’s Conservative-led administration pledged to continue to fund it in its proposed draft budget for the coming financial year.

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A No 61 bus for Lauder at Galashiels.

Other Sunday bus services earmarked for the axe are also set to be saved.

Routes 20 from Kelso to Hawick via Jedburgh, 61 from Galashiels to Earlston, 73 from Galashiels to Selkirk, 235 from Berwick to St Abbs and 253 from Berwick to Edinburgh now look likely to be spared.

The under-threat 128 service from Newcastleton to Hawick is also to be retained at its current level if the draft budget is approved next week.

That U-turn has been welcomed by Bowden villager Alan Taylor, one of those campaigning to save the 964 route.

He said: “This is fantastic news, and I think it is very enlightened.

“We need to look now at how we provide transport for people in far-flung rural places such as Bowden and Gattonside and help people live in the these places rather than try to find ways to cut money so people have no option but to move out of them.

“For the people in the village who were going to be cut off, this will be an immense relief.

“People now need to realise that this is a service that has to be protected and enhanced. It’s upwards and onwards.”

Council leader Shona Haslam said her administration had been persuaded of the need to retain rural bus services, adding: “I can see how much these bus routes mean to those that use them.

“The administration draft budget therefore proposes that we should keep these services which will help deliver on our promises to our rural communities and help level up opportunities across the Borders.

“I hope that this budget is passed by the council on February 26 and these vital routes will be retained.”

Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk MP John Lamont has welcomed that change of heart, saying: “Buses are lifelines for people in many local communities. People travel for work, education, to do some shopping in their local town or to attend a hospital appointment.

“It was clear that the proposed changes would hit vulnerable users particularly hard.

“I am absolutely delighted that the Border Weaver and other bus services will be saved.”

Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP Rachael Hamilton added: “Bus routes have been in the firing line for many years now due to fewer people using them and budget constraints making them less viable.

“However, they are still absolutely crucial for those who rely on them and are their only mode of transport.

“There was a clear backlash about proposals to cut these services, so I am glad the local authority have listened to the concerns of local people.”