Saturday, 4 May 2019

Now We Proceed to the Banks of the Tweed (4)

And the First shall be Last!
Eastern Scottish (later Lowland Scottish!) was the traditional big player in the borders with several high profile routes, notably ...
... the 62 from Edinburgh to Gala and Melrose via Peebles and the 95 from Edinburgh via Gala to Carlisle, developed as a replacement for the Waverley rail route.
Somewhere along the line McEwans of Anisfield ran part of the 95 (as 195) ...
First bought Lowland Scottish and continued to operate the network with, arguably, a lack of vision and simple information-style publicity.
Somewhat belatedly, First caught the route branding bug and the X95 became "The Ridings", a historic name for a chunk of the borders area ...
... and the X62 gained a distinctive tartan take on First Bus colours.
You wouldn't miss an X62 if you were following it in a car ...
... with a simplified route list being duplicated in the stairwell.
It was all very impressive. But was it all proactive, designed to grow the business, or a simple reactive move to counter the arrival (and the commercial threat) of the Borders Railway?

Meanwhile, Perrymans of Berwick ...
... were expanding, having acquired much of the work of Munros of Jedburgh after they went belly-up on 2015.
In 2016 two things happened very quickly and fbb cannot remember which came first; but ...

Perrymans sold out to West Coast Motors and ...

First Bus threw in the towel in the borders and also sold out to West Coast Motors.

The whole caboodle was rebranded Borders Buses.

Which is where we are today with Borders running a network very similar to that operated by Lowland post privatisation.

Which brings us back to fbb's brief excursion to Galashiels on Saturday 28th April. The publicity racks offer substantial leaflet booklets for the X62 and X95.
The X62 still runs every 30 minutes (as did First) whilst the X95 operates in two overlapping sections ...
... offering an noble thirty minute service between Hawick, Selkirk and Gala. If you wish to ride all the way from Carlisle to Edinburgh on one bus your only opportunity is on Sunday when a couple of journeys still operate all the way. Maybe for your sanity and potentially painful posterior the break in Gala's superb interchange might be preferable!

 While fbb was munching his Scotch Pie at the bus station, an X62 arrived.
This was one of three new motors bought for the route and, as per the logos, provided with bike racks inside.
Four bike spaces are available and the appear to be offered on a first-come first-served basis.
Clearly three buses are insufficient to cover a half hour service on the X62, but thoughtfully Borders provide a daily list of which journeys will take the two wheeled people carriers!
Further northbound departures are listed - it was just a bit too big to get on the blog!

fbb was not savvy enough to spot an X95 but did note from the company's web site that new vehicles are being considered. The public is invited to comment on a demonstrator recently deployed.
What comes over, at the bus station and on-line, is that Borders Bus is a lively people-focused company making a real "go" of the ex-First operation. They would appear to be making enough money to invest in new vehicles and new ideas - every bus that fbb saw was in good nick and all except one were in the smart red white and blue livery.

Of course, the big question is, "IF Borders are making money, how come First weren't?" It is a big and largely imponderable question, the answer to which only time will reveal.

We will take a glance at some of the other Galashiels area services and their publicity in a future blog.

 Next Sunday Snippets Blog : Sunday April 5th 


  1. Not sure about Gala, but in Berwick Borders have withdrawn a some local services over the last couple of years. And, while the publicity they produce looks good, when I contacted them about a change to the service to our village which was billed as an improvement but in fact removed half the journeys they didn't reply. On either occasion.
    Perhaps not everything as rosy as it appears