Colin Smyth MSP
South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has urged local bus passengers to take part in a survey run by ‘Stand up for Our Buses’ campaign, which seeks the views of current users and non-users of the under-threat Dumfries to Edinburgh bus service.
The survey comes at a time that Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT), as the lead agency on the possible replacement of the service once current temporary arrangements end, are carrying out a consultation on five options for the future of the service ranging from a continuation of direct services from Dumfries to Edinburgh but at a lower frequency to options that would mean Dumfries passengers changing bus if travelling to Edinburgh.
The service itself is contracted with a private bus firm. The previous contract, which was subsidised by almost £300,000 from Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT), South West of Scotland Transport Partnership (SWESTRANs) and Scottish Borders Council, ran out in August. Following a procurement process, tenders from bus firms came back 86% higher than the current service- at over £500,000. In July the three partners agreed a deal to continue to subsidise the service until at least December, with an option to extend to March 2023 at a cost of £507,940 per annum, to allow further time to consider future options.
As well as the online survey there will be an online stakeholder meeting during the week commencing 24 October. The agencies aim to carry out a tendering process between 31st October and 14th November to allow a contract to be awarded in January for a new service commencing in February/March next year
Colin Smyth said: “Although passenger power gave the Dumfries to Edinburgh bus service a stay of execution, the challenge now is to find a long-term alternative service which is sustainable. At a time councils and transport agencies are having their budgets reduced by the Scottish Government, continuing to pay over £500,000 to a private bus firm to run the services is unlikely to be a realistic option.
“However, it is vital that we maintain a service linking communities across South Scotland with our capital. I would urge people to complete the Stand Up for Our Buses survey so that information can be gained on the reasons for people using the service and what times would suit best, which will help shape any possible new service.
“Given the excessive demands from bus firms to continue the current service, it is likely that there will be changes to service provision. It is really important that any planned new service meets the needs of existing and potential new passengers so that’s why this survey is so important.
“If we are serious about both the climate crisis and helping people get to work, then we need to avoid the continual cuts to bus services including this service.”