First slammed after axing East Lothian bus services

First Bus will end all services in East Lothian. Picture: Gordon Fraser
First Bus will end all services in East Lothian. Picture: Gordon Fraser
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BUS company First has come under fire after axing all services from East Lothian from August and closing depots in Musselburgh and North Berwick.

The operator said 88 posts were “at risk” as routes had not been viable for several years.

It comes four years after First significantly reduced its services in East Lothian with the closure of its Dalkeith depot. Lothian Buses replaced services on several routes.

East Lothian Labour MSP and former bus conductor Iain Gray said he would approach Lothian Buses to ask the firm to make sure all routes were covered.

He said: “It is the end of an era. Above all, our thoughts should be with the significant numbers whose jobs are under threat.

“This will be a difficult time for them and their families. I have already spoken to the company and sought assurances that every effort will be made to offer them alternative employment.

“However, there is no getting away from the fact that local people have not always had the best of services from First.

“Our efforts must be directed towards getting another operator to run the Dunbar and North Berwick services, and do so better.

Mr Gray’s calls were echoed by East Lothian SNP MP George Kerevan.

He said: “It is a matter of urgency to do something about the loss of local services run by First Bus, especially servicing North Berwick and Dunbar.

“Unfortunately, First have been running down services in East Lothian for some time and reducing necessary investment in their fleet. Fortunately, Lothian Buses have filled some of the gaps.

“One solution to the withdrawal of First bus is for Lothian Buses to extend their routes.”

Scottish Conservative South of Scotland MSP Rachael Hamilton called on the Scottish Government to intervene.

She said: “This is devastating news for the 88 workers in the area and their families, and they need to be supported throughout this upsetting process. People who depend on these services, particularly the elderly and those in rural areas, will also be concerned.

“I hope the Scottish Government can work with First and other operators to ensure services remain at least to the same standard in these areas.”

First Scotland East managing director Paul McGowan said: “I’m disappointed that we’re proposing to withdraw from Musselburgh and North Berwick. We will 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.”

newsen@edinburghnews.com