Calls for UK Government to help south of Scotland bus services
There has been calls for the UK Government to help the south of Scotland bus services following an emergency timetable being introduced.
Border Buses has introduced the timetable throughout the Borders after sickness, covid and the lack of new drivers meant they were cancelling routes at the last minute.
An update on their website says: "To ensure we are delivering frequent and reliable journeys we have been left with no alternative than to temporarily amend our current bus times. Normally when network changes take place it is to meet a demand in customer usage, whilst this is still a key factor, the main reasons we are making these changes is to ensure we are utilising our driving team and ensure the full network has a level of service."
Some routes have had their timetable adjusted so they are hourly, instead of every half hour, while others have had first and last buses cancelled.
Lee Young, Operations Manager said: "I've been here for 34 years. It's the worst I've seen it trying to recruit and retain staff."
It's not just the lack of drivers coming forward to take up the roles - it's also the process of getting them a licence to drive the buses, it can take up to three months from application to being on the road.
It's possible that a quicker way to recruit would be to ask ex-drivers from EU national countries to come and take up the positions. However, due to Brexit they currently can't due to visa issues.
Tweeddale MSP Christine Grahame, of the SNP, wants to add bus drivers to the UK Government’s shortage occupation list, which would make it easier for employers to offer jobs to migrants.
However, it's not currently being considered as a possibility by the Home Office.
A Home Office spokesperson said: "Our Points-Based Immigration System is delivering on the people’s priorities of getting businesses to invest in the domestic workforce while attracting those with the skills we need from around the world, not just the European Union.
"We have broadened the eligibility requirements of Skilled Worker visas and lowered the salary threshold, which the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) modelling suggests strikes a reasonable balance between controlling immigration and business access to labour.
"We want to see employers make long term investments in the UK domestic workforce instead of relying on labour from abroad."
Borders Buses say they have tried to recruit locally, and will continue to do so, but would like some assistance. They hope to go back to a full timetable in June.