Bus services in the spotlight

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as bus service subsidies come under pressure, bus companies, councils and politicians are consulting with passengers across the Borders and East Lothian to find out how bus timetable changes will affect them.

Following a meeting held in Galashiels in November, Scottish Borders Council officers are now inviting bus users to attend sessions in nine locations across the Scottish Borders - the majority of the meetings being held on board their own information bus.

Up for discussion are current issues affecting bus services in the Borders and how these services might be delivered in the future as they will need to be adapted to reflect the reduced funding subsidy available. SBC is seeking early input from bus users to plan these changes and to hear their views on existing bus services.

The bus timetable for meetings is:

Wednesday, February 16: in Hawick Town Hall at 10am; Selkirk Market Place at 12 noon; and Jedburgh bus station at 2pm.

Thursday, February 17: Earlston bus stance, 10.30am; Lauder, beside the town hall at 12 noon; and in Peebles Burgh Hall at 2.30pm.

Friday, February 18: Eyemouth Co-op at 10.30am; Duns Square 12 noon; Kelso Square, 2.30pm.

Bus users who would like to be involved can call 0300 100 1800 for more information.

In East Lothian, Jim Hume, Liberal Democrat MSP for the South of Scotland, has met directors of First Bus to discuss recent changes to the bus services in the county.

He took the opportunity to discuss the results of his survey with First Bus managing director Paul Thomas, operations director John Gorman and performance manager Neil McNaught and they have pledged to look at the survey results in a bid to make any necessary improvements.

Mr Hume said: “It’s clear from the results of my bus survey so far that there have been problems in terms of First communicating service changes to passengers, and there is also some concern about inaccurate timetable information.

“Additionally, people are concerned about some services being unreliable.

“But by far, respondents said that they questioned the value-for-money aspect of the single and return fares, which were recently the subject of a price increase.

“This point especially worries me because it may be that because of a lack of information, many passengers are unaware of discount fares available to them and therefore could be paying over the odds for several separate return tickets rather than buying in bulk to obtain a discount. So, First need to greatly improve on getting the information out to their customers.

“I’ll be submitting the full results of the survey to the company in due course, but it was helpful to have this initial discussion.

“The company has pledged to look at the responses in a bid to make improvements, and it may be that decisions on some timetable changes could be reviewed in the spring.

“It may that for the long term a totally new model for bus transport in East Lothian could be looked at.

“Regulation is a fairly cumbersome and potentially quite costly option especially for local authorities, but voluntary partnership agreements might be a way forward. The main benefits of such an arrangement between councils and bus companies are that maximum fares can be set and frequency of any service can be agreed, thereby providing a reliable and reasonably priced service for passengers.”