A proposal by First Scotland East to axe all its bus services in East Lothian including those in Dunbar has been described as “a huge blow” to the local economy.
The company has announced that it will cease trading in the region from August 14, and will also close its depots in Musselburgh and North Berwick.
Jacquie Bell, vice-chair of Dunbar Community Council, said this week: “This is a major blow to the county and I fully support those staff who are to be made redundant at the local bus depots at such short notice.
“I am concerned by the lack of advance warning by First Bus Managers to the community.
“I attended the East Lothian Bus Forum on April 27 which saw management representatives from First Bus in attendance. Nothing was said of the cuts though they must have been aware of something in the pipeline. Dunbar Community Council received no advance information about service reductions from First Bus.”
She continued: “I have since had a standard response from First Bus customer response in reply to my complaint (as DCC vice-chair) about the withdrawal of services which is dated after the decision.”
In a statement on the decision, a spokesperson for the company said: “First Scotland East’s operations in these areas have not been viable for a number of years, despite working hard to turn the business around and attract sufficient customers in what has become an increasingly competitive market.
“However, we had also been compelled to maintain the substantial part of our network through undertakings agreed some 14 years ago following an investigation by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission.
“First Scotland East was recently released from these undertakings by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and, in order to put the business on a sound footing for the future, we have now decided, following a review, to propose this action and allow us to focus resources in areas where customer demand and satisfaction is growing.”
Paul McGowan, managing director of First Scotland East, said: “I’m disappointed that we’re proposing to withdraw from Musselburgh and North Berwick. We will today engage with the local authority on the future of bus services. However, given there are other bus operators that operate in and around the area, I’m confident if we decide to go ahead with these proposals the majority of our customers won’t be left without a service.”
However, Ms Bell fears otherwise. “It was already difficult for students from the area to get to courses at Edinburgh College in Granton without access to a car,” she said, adding: “The loss of cross country connections to Musselburgh makes it very difficult for people to attend the Job Centre.
“The Scottish Government want to increase housing in the ward. However, the infrastructure for development is not in place. Inadequate transport alongside other services like GPs and sewerage is a major issue. Development of thousands more houses without infrastruture provision is a concern.
“It is hoped East Lothian Council - I have already discussed the situation with Councillor Veitch - can urgently find another bus company. However, time is short for new arrangements to be made.”