A £4 MILLION agreement has been finalised for Borders Buses to take over key council-operated routes in the region for the next five years.

Scottish Borders Council has remained responsible for many services in the area.

But the new partnership which was announced this week puts Borders Buses behind the steering wheel when it comes to ticketing and regularity on at least six vital routes.

And the firm didn't have to tender for the contract as SBC considered them to be the only viable operator.

A spokesman for the local authority stated: "It is clear from detailed market research, particularly considered alongside the geography of the Borders area that there is no commercial or other type of market operator in a position to bid for the group of services in question."

The deal will see Border Buses assume the commercial responsibility of Scottish Borders Council’s remaining core bus network - on top of several routes it already operates such as the X95 and X62 - giving them full responsibility for scheduling, time-tables and the setting of fares.

The services involved in the new deal include the 51/52 (Jedburgh to Edinburgh, via St Boswells, Earlston and Lauder), service 60 (Galashiels to Berwick-Upon-Tweed via Duns), service 67 (Galashiels to Berwick-Upon-Tweed via Kelso), service 68 (Galashiels to Jedburgh) and service E13 (Galashiels to Earlston).

Colin Craig, managing director of Borders Buses parent company West Coast Motors, said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with Scottish Borders Council to determine the many ways we can encourage more people onto bus.

“Our customers are at the heart of all our key decisions and this partnership agreement not only reaffirms our on-going investment and commitment to the communities we serve, it also provides a fantastic platform to work closely with Scottish Borders Council to improve bus services and play an important role in improving and upgrading the local bus infrastructure to encourage modal shift.”

It is hoped that the inclusion of the new routes into the commercial set up of Borders Buses will innovate, strengthen and grow the local bus network.

And new partnership working between the company and the local authority will encourage increased bus usage with improving services and the upgrade of the local infrastructure.

Councillor Gordon Edgar, spokesman for roads and infrastructure, told us: "Since their arrival in 2017, Borders Buses have been an excellent addition to the public transport network in our area.

"I am delighted we have now agreed this partnership which will secure a number of core services for local commuters and visitors.

"It also means Borders Buses can continue to improve their services across the Borders to meet passenger demand through the use of technology and modern vehicles.

"As part of our bus review, the council will continue to work with communities and operators to ensure services are sustainable and customer focused, while exploring alternative transport solutions which meet the needs of communities.”

Over the past three years Borders Buses has invested over £10 million in new buses, ticketing systems and improved technology.

They have also launched Scotland’s first bike friendly bus routes equipped with infotainment seat backs, tables, free WiFi and wireless charging, mobile and web apps with live bus tracking and discounted tickets.

Council leader Shona Haslam believes this week's announcement will herald a new era in Borders bus travel.

She said: "Despite only being in existence for three years, Borders Buses have so far invested over £10 million in new vehicles, introduced Scotland's first bike friendly bus route, provided contactless on-board payment and a new app and website which provides real-time bus tracking and ticketing options.

"There will be further announcements in the coming weeks and months which will highlight why we see this partnership as hugely positive news for the Borders."