PASSENGERS can still expect to be picked up by First buses next week despite the company pulling out of the area this weekend.

The operator announced last month that it was about to withdraw its entire fleet from the Borders and neighbouring Midlothian due to a downturn in passenger numbers.

And bosses confirmed that a deal was being negotiated which would see Campbeltown-based West Coast Motors take over the routes.

West Coast, who already operate in the Borders as Perryman's, confirmed this week that they expected the sale would be concluded before this weekend's scheduled handover.

A spokesperson for West Coast Motors, told the Peeblesshire News: "We are very much working towards taking over First Scotland East's operations in the Scottish Borders from Saturday.

"We would look to assure all customer there will be no immediate change to bus fares, routes or timetables."

Although West Coast, who will operate in the region as Borders Buses, will start operating the local routes, which include the X95 and X62, from Sunday passengers can still expect to be picked up by a First bus.

Borders Buses will initially hire vehicles from First before gradually replacing the fleet over the coming weeks and months.

The spokesperson added: "Borders Buses shall be painted red and cream, like its parent company West Coast Motors.

"However, due to the quickness of the sale - and during the transition from First Border to Borders Buses - a range of vehicles will operate the routes.

"Initially this will include buses hired from First Scotland East and unbranded new vehicles.

"Over the coming weeks First’s vehicles shall be replaced with freshly painted Borders Buses, many of them new."

Bosses at West Coast have confirmed that they will honour First season tickets and they will continue to operate to the same timetable.

Although the sale hadn't been completed by the time we went to press it is expected that the Galashiels depot, Peebles, Hawick and Kelso outstations, and all employees will be transferred to Borders Buses on Sunday.

First hadn't responded to our request for an update at time of going to press.

But Scottish Borders Council's public transport department was confident of a smooth handover.

A spokesperson said: “West Coast Motors are still in negotiations to purchase First’s operations in the Borders, and the sale is still scheduled to be concluded on Saturday, March 25.

“If the sale is concluded, the council will continue our partnership with West Coast Motors to deliver improved services in the longer term.”