Councillors’ concern over bus service axe

Local councillors have hit out at a decision by First Bus to withdraw one of its services between Kelso, Jedburgh and Hawick.

The bus operator has announced that it can no longer provide the route 20 early-morning journeys on weekdays, which it operates on behalf of Scottish Borders Council.

A statement issued by the firm said: “First Scotland East, as a business, could no longer justify running this service independently, given it has been operating at a considerable loss for a number of years.”

And although Scottish Borders Council has agreed to subsidise the service for an additional 12 weeks, until the end of March, uncertainty over the future of the provision has met with concerns.

Councillor Stuart Marshall told the Hawick News: “The removal of this service will have a significant impact on the public and therefore it is important we look at all other options before finally giving in.

“I have received a couple of calls from anxious people in the Denholm area who rely on this service, and the matter was raised at Denholm Community Council.”

The council says it has “moved quickly” to ensure the continuation of the service until a new contractor can be found. A spokesperson commented: “An agreement has been reached which will see the firm continue to operate the service until the end of March.

“This will enable the council to examine passenger data and requirements and consult with councillors and local communities and examine future options.”

A First Bus spokesperson said: “We are pleased to confirm that arrangements are now in place for service route 20 to continue to operate until April 4. During the period of this contract, Scottish Borders Council will consider options for the longer term future of this bus service.”

Councillor Watson McAteer commented: “I am very concerned to hear of another service in our area being removed. I would be interested to hear from anyone who will be directly impacted, especially if their livelihood may be at risk as a result of this.”

All other First Bus journeys on the route are operated on a commercial basis. Additional Route 20 services provided on behalf of the council and operated by Peter Hogg and Perryman’s Buses are unaffected.