Integrated transport in Scottish Borders

Integrated transport in Scottish Borders


The Scottish Borders area is sparsely populated, with a few small towns and some deeply rural areas. There is limited access to the national rail network, and the challenging geographical conditions mean that the commercial bus network is sparse.

Access to transport is known to be a major obstacle for elderly people in maintaining their independence and coping with the challenges of age. This problem is particularly acute within the Scottish Borders area despite some attempts to reinforce traditional fixed-route buses with more accessible demand-responsive services.

Scottish Borders Council wanted to review the barriers to accessing transport for elderly people around five population hubs and to develop and test models of transport provision that better met the needs of the local populations.

In an extension to this study, NHS Borders wanted to examine whether non-emergency ambulance provision could be delivered more effectively using a flexible combination of Scottish Ambulance Service resources, demand-responsive transport, and private/voluntary-sector contractors.


The project consisted of two phases running simultaneously. Phase 1 was an in-depth review of community needs and use of existing transport provision. Phase 2 developed and piloted new models of transport provision based on the identified needs of the community and experience and from elsewhere in Scotland.

SYSTRA seconded a staff member to the Council who worked with local stakeholders and operators to identify how services could be improved and then collaborated with operators and contractors to help them deliver the new types of service.

The result was implementation plans for new models of transport provision right across the Scottish Borders.

For NHS Borders, we analysed the use of non-emergency ambulance resources, and the problems that resulted from inefficiencies. We met with the Scottish Ambulance Service to canvass their views on improvements and fed back the results of our analysis to NHS Borders, including the potential to use emerging demand responsive transport networks for non-emergency patient transport.

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