'Lifeline' buses linking Dumfries and Edinburgh saved by rural communities

Credit- Associated Images
Residents in rural communities launched online petitions, staged demonstrations at bus stops and gained cross-party political support. Credit: Associated Images

A bus service in the Borders deemed a lifeline by many in rural communities has been saved after it looked set to be axed.

The 101/102 routes linking Dumfries with Edinburgh and all destinations in-between was due to stop running on 14 August. This was because the transport group SWestrans deemed a Stagecoach bid to run the service was unaffordable due to an 86% increase in cost.

In response, people from rural communities in the Borders region set about highlighting how vital the service was and campaigned to save it.

This included residents from the communities of Carlops, West Linton, Dolphinton, Biggar, Lamington, Abington and Crawford.

Collectively they launched online petitions, staged demonstrations at bus stops and gained cross-party political support.

Backing the campaign were Tweeddale West councillors Viv Thomson (SNP), Eric Small for the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrat's Drummond Begg.

Borders MP David Mundell and MSP Christine Grahame also supported the campaign.

Now under a joint agreement between SWestrans, Scottish Border Council and the Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT), the 101/102 bus service will continue running until at least March 2023. It will be managed by current operator Stagecoach West Scotland.

In a joint statement SWestrans, the Scottish Borders Council and SPT said: "The three partners have agreed to fund the increased cost of the service for the remainder of the financial year 2022/23.

"We would like to thank individual correspondents, the communities along the route and elected representatives for their work to raise awareness of the importance of bus services in rural areas."

Those backing the campaign welcomed the service's extension until the end of the year.

However, councillors from Tweeddale West said more work needed to be done to ensure the 101/102 services meet "user needs, is affordable and fit for the future."

They also urged people to continue using the service to guarantee it stayed viable.

Christine Grahame, MSP for the Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale, said: "Whilst I welcome this decision, I think we must now look seriously at how this came to pass and how to avoid this situation in future.

"This is the second time I've had to campaign to save this service, the previous occasion being in 2018 when Borders Council cut funding for the route from £135k to £35k, and this level of sporadic uncertainty is not acceptable for those who rely on it."

Further discussions are planned to ensure the long-term future of the bus service is secured.

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