A NEW operator has been found for a threatened Borders bus service.

In December it was revealed that none of the bids received during an initial tendering process to run the 101/102 Dumfries to Edinburgh route, via Biggar and West Linton, were considered best value.

But now Houston’s Coaches, based in Lockerbie, is being recommended to take over the running of the service on a three-year contract at a cost of £385,000-a-year.

A report has been submitted ahead of a meeting of the operations committee at Strathclyde Passenger Transport (SPT) on Friday (January 27).

Tweeddale MP David Mundell, of the Conservatives, said: “On the face of it this is encouraging news, and especially since the contract would be for a three-year period with an optional two year extension, helping ensure the future of the service over the long-term.

“SPT has informed me that the preferred bidder is Houston’s Coaches of Lockerbie and that they would operate a timetable similar to the one currently operating, commencing April 1, 2023.

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“I am seeking further information from SPT about the times of the proposed journeys, but hope the fact that a preferred bidder has been identified means we are on the brink of a breakthrough and that the 101/102 service, essential to communities along the A702, can indeed be maintained beyond March 31.”

The service is jointly-funded by SPT, SWestrans and Scottish Borders Council.

It was run by Stagecoach until August last year at a cost of £272,000-a-year.

A petition, signed by thousands, led to a temporary contract being funded which ends on March 31.

The temporary deal is equivalent to £507,940-a-year which all funding partners agreed was “unsustainable in the long term”.

The committee has been recommended to award the contract to Houston’s Coaches.

It has also been asked to approve an SPT funding contribution of £128,333-a-year.

The contract award would be subject to the approval of funding by Scottish Borders Council and Swestrans for their respective contributions for three years.