BORDERS Buses has blamed “driver illness/shortages” for service cancellations across the region last Saturday.

The firm, owned by West Coast Motors of Campbeltown, posted a social media message on Friday evening, listing all the cancelled services.

On Saturday, a total of 31 buses did not run across the Borders on the following routes: the 51 10.46am St Boswells to Edinburgh and Edinburgh to St Boswells at 12.49pm; the 61 from Galashiels to Oxton and return had 12 cancellations between 7.10am and 4.25pm; the X95 Galashiels to Hawick and return missed eight services between 7am and 5.15pm; the X62 Galashiels to Peebles and return also missed eight services between 10.25am and 7.12pm; while the 399 from Eskbank Tesco to Gorebridge did not run at all.

More than 60 people commented about the cancelled services on social media.

Louise Graham from Earlston said: “I’m glad I don’t work at the Borders General Hospital anymore as I used to rely heavily on buses. I couldn’t afford taxis and I would have been in trouble if I kept missing work due to bus shortages.”

Borders Buses is not alone and there is a nationwide shortage of trained Passenger Carrying Vehicle (PCV) licence-holding bus drivers.

The firm has a job advertisement on its website offering full and part-time driving roles, paying £11 per hour, at depots including: Galashiels, St Boswells and Berwick-Upon-Tweed.

A full time bus driver would typically work 40 to 45 hours a week.

In addition it offers training to the value of £2,000, to gain a PCV licence and it does not have to be repaid if the trainee stays with Borders Buses for two or more years.

A bus driver, who preferred not to give his name, said: “Unfortunately the whole of the transport industry is feeling the fall, from the pandemic as people have decided that what really matters in their lives.

“Everyone from management right through to the drivers are pulling all their power to minimise the disruption of services.

“Unfortunately people get ill, need rest and holidays, just like any other business.”

On social media, Graham Cuthbert added: “Staff illnesses are making the real problem worse that is the nationwide shortage of bus drivers.

“One driver not doing an extra day, when there is a shortage of drivers, is a whole shift lost, hence service cancellations.”

Paola Maria Coppola added: “What is being done to recruit more drivers throughout the industry?

“It’s not just about sickness it’s about lack of drivers.

“Even if staff were not off sick it would still be a problem.

“I hate to use the dreaded B word (Brexit) but that must be a contributory factor.”

Scottish Borders Council subsidy for sustainable bus services across the region is £3.7 million per annum.

A spokesperson for Borders Buses told us: “Like many industries we are experiencing a shortage of labour.

“This means any driver illness or annual leave has a direct impact on our operations, and we apologise for the disruption this can have on our customers travel requirements.

“Looking at this weekend, we hope to operate most to all services and will confirm – if any – cancellations on Thursday evening on our social channels.”