Bus cut consultation plea

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A local councillor says the public must be consulted before changes to the 120 Hawick-Denholm-Kelso bus are finalised

Watson McAteer says those who will be most affected have to have their say and he claims that Scottish Borders Council has again failed to consult with those they are supposed to represent.

SBC plans to make swingeing changes to the 120 bus after First Bus handed them back the contract. New tenders were going to cost in the region of £130,000 per year, and on Friday, councillors were given the weekend to come up with workable proposals.

Speaking this week, Mr McAteer said: “It is incredible that the threat of removal of a key bus service connecting rural communities can unfold without the slightest hint of consultation with those most affected.”

And he added that those who stand to lose out must be consulted: “It is evident that there are many genuine reasons for retaining the bulk of this valuable service and who better to explain them than the users and businesses likely to be impacted.

“Any decisions affecting this service should be delayed until the Borders public have their say.”

And Councillor McAteer further claimed that the council has done itself no favours in the way it has handled the bus cut saga: “While the long-term cost of maintaining the 120 bus service may well be an issue, the way the council has handled this matter has attracted widespread and significant criticism.”

The information provided to the Hawick News on Thursday shortly before our deadline shows that 12 Hawick to Kelso and return journeys a week will be lost and that savings of almost £100,000 have been made.

A council spokesperson said: “The cost of the new service is approximately £35,000 pa. This is effectively a new cost to the council as between 2011 and January 2015 the 120 bus service had been operated commercially by First Scotland East. Due to lack of use the company found it unviable to continue to provide this service on a commercial basis.”

But SBC says it will continue to review the plans: “However, the council recognises that this is an essential service for some people and while we review it we will continue to provide a level of service which provides connectivity for local people.” And in an email sent to councillors and forwarded to the Hawick News, council leader David Parker warned about further cuts as bus companies “hand in” their contracts.

Mr Parker wrote: “Officers are also aware that there are some concerns about other bus routes at present, so we need to be careful as a council about how we address each of these matters, so that we can continue to ensure that we can provide an affordable bus network. Officers will be undertaking some further review work of the entire bus network in the months ahead and will consult with elected members on this matter.”