Colin Smyth MSP
Colin Smyth MSP

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth is hopeful a new deal will see a “reprieve” for the current bus service between Dumfries and Edinburgh which was set to end in August.

The current contract to run the service, which runs out next month, is subsidised by almost £300,000 from Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT), South West of Scotland Transport Partnership (SWESTRANs) and Scottish Borders Council.  Following a procurement process, tenders from bus firms came back 86% higher than the current service.

Discussions are taking place between the three agencies, including a consideration by Scottish Borders Council to reverse cuts in funding they made to the to subsidise the service last year, to allow a continuation in the route until at least December, with an option to extend to March 2023 if needed. This would allow further time to consider long term options.

Colin Smyth said, “Such a reprieve is important to allow time to look at longer term plan. It really would be shameful if our capital was not linked by a direct bus service.”

“I am pleased that the three local agencies have responded to calls to at least buy time to consider a way forward that ensures we maintain a link. Passenger numbers vary from different parts of the South of Scotland, but what is clear is the fact this is a vital service for those who use it.

“I have spoken with a considerable number of people across the area all with different stories as to why this service is vital to them, whether for work or to stay connected with family, and we need to keep working to maintain it in the long term”.

Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) have published proposals for an alternative service that would run from Crawford in Lanarkshire to Harthill Services, to allow a link for onward journeys to Edinburgh, but the move has been criticised by Colin Smyth.

Colin Smyth added, ”The so-called alternative from SPT really is a non-starter. Not only does it fail to connect with the borders. Midlothian and Dumfries and Galloway, but doesn’t even connect South Lanarkshire to Edinburgh and even the times are totally unworkable for many people”.

Colin Smyth wrote to the three agencies highlighting the need to find a solution to retain the service as well as the Scottish Government Transport Minister Jenny Gilruith warning that without action from the SNP Green Government, this cut will be one of many. The local MSP believes that long-term reform is needed including    As a result of amendments made to the Transport Bill in 2019 by Colin Smyth, Council’s now have powers to run services direct. However, the powers were only passed to councils this week and to date the Scottish Government have only announced funding for the whole of Scotland of £1m through a Community Bus Fund to cover the set-up cost of such services. The fund also has not yet been set up and the criteria is unknown.

Colin Smyth added, “It is clear this will just be one of many services that will come to an end soon unless we see radical changes in the way bus services are run. Public transport is a public service and like all public services, I believe they should be publicly run. We need to see council run bus services established across the South of Scotland that put passengers, not but firms profits first. Without that, this will just be the start of cut after cut to services that are already woeful in many areas.”

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