CLAIMS that the curtailment of a Dumfriesshire bus service was caused by “unprecedented delays” at the DVLA have been dismissed.
It follows increased calls for Borders Buses to reinstate the X95 Edinburgh to Carlisle, which stops in Langholm and Canonbie, as an hourly service.
During the pandemic, the operator reduced timetables and the service has run just once every two hours – causing those who regularly ride the cross-border transport link to grow frustrated.
A petition calling for the return of the pre-Covid timetable started by retired Langholm nurse Mary Johnstone has gathered more than 400 signatures.
She said: “The reduced service has had a negative impact on the lives of many people who used the X95 to commute to work, travel to appointments, make social visits and to connect with trains from Carlisle.
“I know a big miss are the evening services, which were particularly important to some local bus users, and which we want reassurance that they will be included in any replacement timetable.”
Dumfriesshire MSP Oliver Mundell passed the petition to Scottish Transport Secretary Michael Matheson and wrote to Borders Buses.
In reply, the operator’s managing director Colin Craig said there are “a number of factors” stopping the return of the old timetable.
But he described the “main issue” as “unprecedented delays” in getting new bus driver licenses processed by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).
Mr Craig added: “During the pandemic, while we were running at severely reduced capacity, many of our older members of staff took the opportunity to retire and unfortunately, due to our new potential drivers awaiting legal approval, we are faced with driver shortages at every depot.”
However, the DVLA played down reports of administrative backlogs and said the statement by Borders Buses “isn’t a true reflection of the case”.
A DVLA spokesperson said: “There are no delays for bus and lorry provisional licence applications or renewals, which are currently being issued in around five days – we are prioritising these applications and looking at ways to speed up this process even further.
“The vast majority of lorry and bus applications we have are drivers renewing their licences and in most cases these drivers can continue to drive while we are processing their application provided they have not been told by their doctor or optician they should not drive.”
Commenting, Oliver Mundell said: “The X95 is a lifeline for many people, particularly in areas like Langholm and Canonbie with very few choices when it comes to public transport.
“I would like to see the full timetable reintroduced as soon as possible.”
South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth added: “The X95 is a crucial service that covers many communities across the South of Scotland and the lack of frequency simply means it’s just not an option anymore for people who want to use the bus.”