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Costs of running rural bus routes revealed

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By Ben Murray
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Costs of running rural bus routes revealed

DUMFRIESSHIRE’S most expensive to run bus routes have been revealed — and one costs nearly £45 per passenger per trip, it has emerged.

The 124 bus service from Langholm to the Samye Ling Centre at Eskdalemuir costs £76,400 a year and with only 1768 passengers using it, that works out at £43.21 per person.

That compares to the busier 112 Lockerbie to Samye Ling route, which carries 9763 people annually at a cost of £5.09 per passenger, and has a total yearly operating cost of £49,672.

Other expensive contracts include the 502 Dumfries to Castle Douglas service which costs £33.46 per passenger; then the 212 Moniaive to Thornhill at £16.51, and the 117 Lockerbie to Hightae route which costs £15.68 per passenger.

Regional transport partnership SWestrans say they may be forced to alter some local bus services to ease financial pressures.

The matter was discussed during their meeting last Friday, when the reports were revealed showing which bus services are used the most and how much they cost.

While existing services are hoped to be continued, rising financial pressures have caused SWestrans to look at alternative routes for their most expensive journeys.

One such proposal involves a merger of two pre-existing Lockerbie routes that lead through to Gretna, with currently one diverging to Carlisle and the other travelling to Annan.

As there are other viable routes available to both locations, the two 382 services may simply end up terminating at Gretna instead.

Another proposal was to merge the costly Samye Ling service with the 120 Langholm Town Service.

SWestrans have already made plans to tender new contracts to come into effect later this year, with 55 of the 57 existing bus contracts to be terminated in August for new ones to be made.

Alongside this, new contracts have been agreed upon, such as a new long-term bus route running from Dumfries to Edinburgh that came into effect last weekend.

SWestrans officer Douglas Kirkpatrick said: “We can anticipate a level of inflation across all current supported services when they are re-tendered as operators react to current issues.

“Issues include ongoing operating cost volatility, continuing low passenger numbers, reduction in national recovery funding and the shortage of qualified drivers.”

SWestrans supports 57 local bus services across the region for a total gross annual spend of £4.2M with funding contributions received from SPT, Scottish Borders Council and NHS Dumfries and Galloway.

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