FROM April 1 the lifeline 101/102 bus service connecting Dumfries, Biggar and West Linton to Edinburgh will have a new operator.

In July last year the west Tweeddale route was threatened with the axe.

But the route was saved after a campaign, co-ordinated by Stand Up for Our Buses, amassed 10,000 signatures and later conducted an online survey of passengers.

As a small operation with 40 drivers on all its routes, family firm Houston’s Coaches, of Lockerbie, promises a more personal service.

The contract is currently for three years and is known as a three plus two contract – meaning two years could be added.

On Tuesday a Houston’s spokesperson said: “We will start with our existing buses but we have ordered three new MCV Volvo buses which are due at the end of May.

“The route is a big undertaking for us and we hope we can make it a success. People will get more one to one with us and we love speaking to people but you can do 100 things properly and if you do one thing wrong, that is remembered.

“Three of the Stagecoach drivers are making Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) TUPEing over to us and another former driver is due to join.

“One point is to get more bodies on the buses from Dumfries.”

At West Linton Community Council’s (WLCC) meeting on Monday evening, members wondered if the service might include a later bus than currently timetabled on a Friday or Saturday night.

The company spokesperson said Houston’s wants to get its service up and running before committing to anything extra.

They said: “A late bus would have to be commercially viable because it would not be subsidised.

“It would need at least 20 to 30 people travelling reasonably regularly from Bigger or West Linton to Edinburgh.

“We will run with the timetable we have but could tweak it later.”

WLCC chairman Mark McDavid said: “Could we have a ‘school report’ every quarter to see how the bus is going?”

WLCC members agreed to making the 101/102 service a standing item on its agenda.