FURTHER protests are being planned for next week in a bid to save a lifeline bus service.
Protestors took to the streets in Peeblesshire last Tuesday to voice their anger at the news that the 101/102 from Edinburgh to Dumfries is set to be axed in August.
And campaigner Neil Ingram, of Biggar, says that action is being planned for this coming Tuesday (July 19), with an online petition against the service cuts amassing more than 10,000 signatures.
Scottish Borders Council (SBC) is among the bodies locked in crisis talks in a bid to save the route.
Mr Ingram, an associate member of Biggar Community Council, said: “Funding authorities met on Friday (July 8) to find a way of keeping the service running. They are now looking at further ways of saving the service, but some of these may only include parts of the route. The 101/102 service serves a number of towns and villages including Moffat, Thornhill, Elvanfoot, Crawford, Abington, Lamington, Biggar, Dolphinton, West Linton, Carlops and Silverburn.
“This service is essential to the lives of many who live in the communities along the route. Those who cannot drive or have no access to a car would be unable to travel beyond the settlements they live in.”
The current contract for the route with Stagecoach ends on August 13.
A new deal has not been awarded which has been blamed on a sharp rise in the proposed costs of running the service.
It is operated on behalf of a number of local authorities and regional transport partnerships, including SBC, Midlothian Council, Strathclyde Partnership Transport (SPT) and SWestrans.
Midlothian Council has confirmed it does not have additional resources to contribute to the increased costs, while Edinburgh City Council has not yet stated its position.
According to SPT, it has “engaged in an exercise, to procure a supported level of provision, to mitigate, as far as is reasonably practical for displaced passengers within the South Lanarkshire Council area”.
It said the future of the service had been “escalated as a mater of urgency and importance across partners”.
The issue was discussed at a meeting of West Linton Community Council on Monday.
Community councillor Tim Brian said: “It sounds to me that SPT are going it alone in seeing whether they can get a bus to resolve the South Lanarkshire section.”
Tweeddale West councillor Drummond Begg, of the Liberal Democrats, said: “Councillors Viv Thomson, Eric Small and myself were at a meeting this afternoon and the headline is, ‘There is no definitive solution’.
“They seem to think that by the end of this week with further meetings we may be able to have at least some short-term solution.”
Tweeddale MSP Christine Grahame, of the SNP, met with the chairman of the South Scotland Enterprise Agency, Professor Russel Griggs, to seek the group’s support in calling for the service to continue.
Ms Grahame was among those who campaigned to save the 101/102 back in 2018.
She said: “On that occasion we were successful in saving it – it was a vital service then and it remains a vital service now.
“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.”