First Bus reverses on local rural services

First Bus X95 service.
First Bus X95 service.

First Bus is to sell its operations in Midlothian and the Borders, leaving the X95 route still facing an uncertain future.

Just two months after denying it had plans for the Hawick to Edinburgh route, which serves Midlothian, the company announced it had agreed a deal with principle with West Coast Motors, which will operate the business under its operating subsidiary Borders Buses Ltd.

The sale is expected to be concluded on March 25.

The news has stunned people living in rural parts of the county who depend on the X95 service, with First Bus blaming the impact that the Borders Railway has had on its services for the sale of its operations.

Moorfoot Community Council secretary Kate Buxton lives in Borthwick. She uses the X95, which travels the A7, serving villages including North Middleton and Newtongrange.

She said: “My immediate reaction is shock and horror. We are disappointed and shocked. They surely knew when they denied the X95 would be axed that this was happening.

“The train is not accessible to everybody. It’s quite far to get to a station for a lot of people here. I dare say the bus has dropped off in numbers since the railway came but we have still got a lot of people who can’t access the rail and depended on this bus.

“If the X95 goes then the closest bus is in Birkenside about three miles away from where I live. I currently only have a 20-minute walk to get the X95 at North Middleton.

“It would be a big loss for a lot of people. A lot depends on what is offered as an alternative.”

First Bus denied that it had misled customers. A spokesman added: “Negotiations on an agreement in principle with West Coast Motors have progressed rapidly and we have made customers and stakeholders aware of this proposed agreement at the earliest possible opportunity. We did this after advising all of our employees of the proposed transfer at face to face meetings.”

West Coast Motors runs a network of bus and tour operations across Scotland and the north of England, including Perryman’s Buses in the Borders.

A spokeswoman said: “We would like to assure customers there will be no initial change to the bus service when Borders Buses takes over on March 25. The routes will operate as normal and all valid tickets purchased with First will be honoured by Borders Buses.”