A SOUTH of Scotland bus operator has blamed a shortage of services running through Eskdale on “unprecedented delays” in processing bus driver licenses.
A spokesperson for Borders Buses was responding to calls for the X95 service from Galashiels to Carlisle via Langholm and Canonbie to be increased to once an hour.
Reduced passanger numbers at the start of the pandemic led the operator to cut the service to once every two hours.
And 20 months on, the service continues to run at this frequency.
Now around 200 people have signed a petition calling for the pre-Covid X95 timetable to be reinstated.
But Borders Buses said it is due to “a host of reasons” that services are still running on reduced timetables and added it is currently “unable” to reintroduce a once-hourly bus.
A spokesperson for the operator said: “At this time Borders Buses is currently operating 92 per cent and 71 per cent of its Scottish Borders Council contracted and Borders Buses commercial services respectively.
“We are carrying approximately 60 per cent of 2019 patronage and until the Scottish Government softens its measures and stops advising people to work from home, we do not expect to see a bigger increase in those numbers.
“In normal circumstances we have always responded positively to demand and requests for increased frequency and journeys. Unfortunately, due to a host of reasons, we are sadly unable to increase our frequency.”
Whilst underlining fewer commuters due to lockdown and Brexit as contributing factors, they highlighted the “main issue” as “unprecedented delays in processing vocational driver licence applications and the ability to book bus driving tests”.
They added: “This week the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) confirmed that as of 24 October 2021 a total of 29,545 vocational driving licence applications were waiting to be processed – this includes many of our future drivers. Many of whom will simply give up waiting and seek alternative employment and we must go through this whole process again.
“Pre Covid-19 as our older drivers retired, we would have a continuous flow of new drivers enter the business. This isn’t happening and we have driver shortages at all depots.
“We continue to witness bus operators cutting routes and journeys across the UK as they are unable to deliver services due to driver shortage.
“We are not doing this, and our teams are working round the clock to ensure we are delivering our full scheduled service. However until this DVLA debacle is addressed, we are sadly and physically unable to increase our journeys.”