Midlothian MSP continues fight to protect local bus services

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SNP MSPs Emma Harper, Mairi McAllan and Christine Grahame are continuing their efforts to protect the 101 and 102 buses which they say “provide vital lifeline services” for their constituents between Dumfries and Edinburgh.

The 101 and 102 services from Dumfries to Edinburgh go through Thornhill, Biggar, Dolphinton, West Linton and Penicuik. SPT, Scottish Borders Council, and SWestrans as partners, currently fund the services.

However, Stagecoach stated that the services will cease as of August 12 due to an “86 per cent” increase in tendered service cost.

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The three SNP MSPs have made clear this is not acceptable and that a plan which continues the route must be found. They have also slammed the way decisions have been taken, saying “there was no public consultation, no warning and decisions appear to have been taken at a meeting of SWestrans, behind closed doors, demonstrating a profoundly unimaginative unacceptable approach to finding a solution to keeping the 101 and 102 services available”.

On Tuesday, the three MSPs met with the chair of the South Scotland Enterprise Agency, Professor Russel Griggs, to seek SOSE’s support in calling for the services to continue because of their vital socioeconomic importance across the South of Scotland, in getting people to work, to education, and to amenities and vital services.

Ms Grahame, MSP for Midlothian South, said: “I have had countless contacts from constituents since news of this service withdrawal started trickling out and, given the lack of publicity around the decision, I was as shocked as they were to learn this lifeline service was under threat again.

“I campaigned in 2018 to save this service when it was under threat due to Scottish Borders Council cutting its funding of the route from £135,000 to £35,000.

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"On that occasion we were successful in saving it – it was a vital service then and it remains a vital service now, particularly in areas where no alternative public transport option exists.

Stock photo of the number 101 Stagecoach bus heading east through West Linton in the Scottish Borders. Photo by Stuart Cobley.Stock photo of the number 101 Stagecoach bus heading east through West Linton in the Scottish Borders. Photo by Stuart Cobley.
Stock photo of the number 101 Stagecoach bus heading east through West Linton in the Scottish Borders. Photo by Stuart Cobley.

“Every possible solution must now be looked at to ensure this service is retained, it is absolutely not acceptable to leave towns and villages such as these with no public transport. I will do all I can to see this service saved.”

Professor Russel Griggs, Chair of South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE), added: “I hope that everyone recognises the difficult decisions that organisations sometimes need to make, as they seek to make best use of finite resources to fund services important for our communities.

"No doubt, SWestrans, Strathclyde Passenger Transport and Scottish Borders Council, felt faced with such a decision following the outcome of the replacement tender exercise for the 101/102 bus route. I understand that the bid submitted would have resulted in an 86 per cent increase (to I understand around £500,000) in the costs of the service which they and other partners regarded as unaffordable in light of what they see as the usage of the service and the need to fund other services.

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“However, I am deeply disappointed about the way that the decision was taken and the lack of consultation with the communities and organisations impacted by the decision. Their response has shown the importance of the service and the store that those using what they see as a vital route put on it. We trust that a solution can be found that responds to the needs of those communities and organisations and taken in consultation with them.

“Engaging with those impacted by decisions either good or bad is an important principle for us all to remember and I look forward to a wider engagement as we look to the future provision of public transport in the region.”