MIDLOTHIAN Council will not set up its own bus company to replace services lost by First’s cutbacks, it emerged today.
Several villages face being left without links after the firm revealed it was to close its Dalkeith depot and scale down operations in Musselburgh.
Council leader Derek Milligan held talks with First last week, where he was told the decision was irreversible.
The Evening News has revealed East Lothian Council was considering setting up its own state-run links to serve isolated villages.
However, Cllr Milligan said Midlothian would not follow suit and would instead seek other operators to take over the routes.
He said the timescale to set up a network was too short and that it would put other bus firms off coming forward.
More than 200 jobs will be lost when First’s cutbacks take hold in June, with residents in the Midlothian villages of Cousland, Millerhill and Newton Village marooned.
Cllr Milligan insisted setting up a council bus service was an unrealistic prospect.
He said: “We certainly couldn’t do it in the timescales required. The time it would take to arrange something like this would take us way beyond the point at which First services disappear. We would then have nothing to fill the void.
“The other problem with this approach is that an indication that the council was thinking of starting its own services is likely to discourage other bus companies from considering taking over some of these routes.”
He said negotiations would open with other transport firms in the next few days.
“We’ve arranged a series of urgent meetings with other bus operators to find out if they would be able take over some or all of the routes currently served by First,” he said.
“We want to let everyone know we’re doing all we can to keep critical bus services going for our communities.”
Cllr Milligan admitted the loss of bus services would hit Midlothian hard.
He said: “We were extremely disappointed to have been informed by First that the decision to close Dalkeith depot would appear to be irreversible.
“There are two major issues for Midlothian – the bus service cuts and the potential loss of up to 200 jobs.
“My thoughts are with all of the employees who are affected. Midlothian Council will do all it can to support staff in obtaining alternative employment or retraining opportunities.”
GREEN FUND BOOST
LOTHIAN Buses is to benefit from the second round of the Scottish Government’s Green Bus Fund.
The company will be awarded £750,000 to invest in ten new low-carbon buses. Transport Minister Keith Brown said: “The Scottish Government is absolutely committed to public transport and to our climate change target of reducing carbon emissions by 42 per cent by 2020.
“This is another clear indication of our support and commitment to the bus industry in Scotland.”