A SOUTH Scotland MSP has accused Lothian Buses bosses of having their “heads in the sand” over the suspended X5 bus service.

Craig Hoy, Conservative South Scotland MSP, claims he contacted Lothian Buses three times to organise a meeting to discuss the future of the service, before he received a response.

The X5 bus was suspended last year by East Coast Buses, a subsidiary of Lothian Buses, following the introduction of national lockdown restrictions.

The service ran through North Berwick, Dirleton, Gullane, Aberlady and Longniddry, then directly to Edinburgh via the A1.

Commuters from Dirleton, Gullane and Aberlady now face an extra hour in their daily commute to Edinburgh using the 124 bus service, which stops at Prestonpans, Wallyford, Musselburgh and Portobello.

An online petition launched by Mr Hoy calling for the reinstatement of the service has now received more than 900 signatures.

Mr Hoy said: “In early October, my office contacted East Coast Buses, who issued a standard response outlining the reasons for continued withdrawal of the service, including challenges with recruitment, the need to prioritise key services and the focus on delivering the 124 service.

“I recognise these challenges, but I also recognise they apply across all routes across the whole of the Lothians and are not confined to the X5 route.

“After a number of residents living in Dirleton, Gullane, Aberlady and Longniddry reached out to me about the X5 bus, I launched a petition calling for the reinstatement of the service.

“I wrote to East Coast Buses on two occasions requesting a face-to-face meeting, and followed this up with a third letter to the interim managing director of Lothian Buses.

“Lothian Buses is owned by the four Lothian council areas, which includes East Lothian Council. That makes it accountable to the residents of our community.

“The number of signatures on the petition shows the clear strength of feeling in the area about reinstating the X5 bus.

“At this point, Lothian Buses have their heads buried in the sand – they cannot keep ignoring our communities.”

In a letter to Mr Hoy dated November 30, Nigel Serafini, interim managing director of Lothian Buses, said it was the company’s “priority” to re-establish the X5 “as soon as driver resource permits”.

He added: “The X5 covers no additional areas that service 124 does not (only providing a quicker link to Edinburgh).

“In contrast, the X7 is the only service that operates to East Linton, West Barns and Dunbar. Without the X7 these communities would be without a regular bus service whilst, as explained, the same is not true of Gullane, Aberlady and Dirleton.”

A spokesperson for East Coast Buses added: “East Coast Buses is absolutely committed to delivering for all of our customers in East Lothian.

“Like many other transport providers at this time, we are in an extremely challenging recruitment market, which, coupled with our safety protocols for colleagues who find themselves in the Covid-19 track and trace cycle, means that we are experiencing significant resourcing difficulties in our driving team on a day-to-day basis.

“With limited available resource, we have made the difficult decision to prioritise key services which provide as many transport links as possible throughout East Lothian. In terms of service provision for Gullane and Aberlady, we have focused on delivering service 124, which provides critical local links along the coast as well as direct travel to Edinburgh.”