SBC lifts bus services axe threat

BUS services for Stonefield, Longcroft Crescent and Hamilton Road are to be saved.

However, the number of journeys from the town to Carlisle (Service 95) could be cut amid rising fuel costs and public spending cuts.

Both matters were among a number of issues due to be discussed yesterday by Paul Thomas, managing director of First, South East and Central, and Colin Douglas, Scottish Borders Council’s passenger transport manager. Subsidised services, run by First and Munro’s, are due to expire at the end of next month – Munro’s had already handed back its early morning and late afternoon contracts.

But at Tuesday’s executive meeting, Mr Douglas told councillors the local authority would step into the breach with an outer circle service operated by SBC’s own minibuses, used for school and social work runs, but currently standing idle in late mornings and early afternoons. The new arrangement would still offer savings to the council of £4,500.

Councillor Jock Houston said: “I am delighted that Mansfield Road and Hamilton Road are not going to lose their buses.

“It’s a long shopping carry from there to Burnfoot shops or the town centre and the new minibus service will give people a couple of hours in town for medical and dental appointments, using the library and shopping etc.”

Mr Douglas won approval for a range of measures to cut the council’s outlay by £70,000.

There was, he said, an opportunity to reduce SBC’s current subsidy of £85,000 to First for operating service 95 from Hawick to Carlisle – currently the subject of a re-tendering process – to £67,500.

With Dumfries and Galloway Council already due to cut its support for the route, favoured by workers, shoppers and train passengers, Mr Douglas highlighted the potential to remove “middle of the day” journeys and retime others.

A similar shake-up awaits the Newcastleton to Carlisle service 127, with the council aiming to cut its £27,000 subsidy by £4,500 by terminating all daytime journeys at Canonbie where passengers can connect to the less frequent service 95. However, the two early-morning trips straight through to Carlisle for Newcastleton workers will be retained.