South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has stepped up calls to Borders Buses to reverse cuts to the X95 bus service.
Prior to the pandemic, the Borders Buses’ X95 service, which runs from Edinburgh to Carlisle was hourly.
When COVID restrictions were introduced the service was cut to every two hours- with operator Borders Buses now saying the reduced frequency will become permanent.
Colin Smyth says the cut highlights the failure of the Scottish Government to secure meaningful guarantees from bus firms that they would maintain services in return for the millions of pounds of support given to companies during the pandemic.
The Scottish Government recently announced funding of a further £42 million for bus firms for the period between 4 October 2021 and 31 March 2022 to plug the gap between the additional cost of running services as a result of COVID-19, and decreased ticket revenue collected by bus operators.
The Government allocated £191.3m to support bus services in the 2020/21 financial year for losses caused by the pandemic-but failed to demand that services should not be cut in return, resulting in Borders Buses being able to keep the cuts in place for the vital X95 service that serves a number of communities across Midlothian, the Borders, Dumfries and Galloway and Cumbria including Newtongrange, Hawick, Galashiels, Langholm, Canonbie and Longtown.
Colin Smyth said: “Everyone understands why companies reduced services when Covid hit, especially given the potential health impact on both passengers and drivers. It may also be some time before passenger numbers rise back to even close to pre-pandemic levels, but we will never get people back on our buses if we take those buses away.
“The X95 is a crucial service that covers many communities across the South of Scotland and the lack of frequency simply means it’s just not an option anymore for people who want to use the bus.
“I have urged Borders Buses to reinstate this service to an hourly one. However, their decision not to so far highlights the failure of the Scottish Government to secure proper guarantees from bus firms that in return for the tens of millions of pounds that was given to the sector during the pandemic, they should not be cutting services and we need to look again at how that support works.”