A SIX-MONTH pilot project will offer NHS staff in the Borders half-price bus tickets during the winter months.

The project, which has been set up by NHS Borders and Scottish Borders Council (SBC), received a £58,000 grant from Smarter Choices, Smarter Places (SCSP) Open Fund.

It will subsidise up to 13,000 day saver bus tickets for NHS workers until early 2021, with all Borders bus operators involved.

Operations manager at Borders Buses, Lee Young, says the discount is “great news”.

“Along with other bus operators in the Borders, we have been proud to transport NHS Borders staff to and from work throughout this pandemic,” he said.

“We hope the pilot is a success and it encourages more people to safely and responsibly travel by bus.”

SBC applied for the funding after Borders Buses offered free travel to NHS workers through the initial lockdown period.

The discount will be available for any NHS worker who provides their NHS ID.

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NHS Borders workforce director Andy Carter said: “The scheme will benefit our key workers who rely on buses for essential travel.

"This initiative will make journeys more affordable and is a greener option for people, as bus travel is a sustainable form of transport.”

The Open Fund, managed by walking charity Paths for All and supported by the Scottish Government’s Active Travel budget, aims to cut Scotland's carbon emissions, improve air quality and tackle health inequalities.

Councillor Gordon Edgar, executive member for infrastructure, travel and transport, said: “We were delighted to work with our partners NHS Borders and local bus operators to secure this funding which will support key workers in the health service to use sustainable transport at a lower cost over a six-month trial period.”

The 50 per cent discount is only valid on single and return journeys. It does not apply to Borders Buses mobile app tickets.

Tickets are applicable for use outside the Borders, however, they must only be purchased in the Borders area.

Paths for All's chief officer Ian Findlay says he is “delighted” the grant will help NHS workers.

“It’s great to see a project like this which not only reduces daily car journeys, but also supports NHS staff at this crucial time,” he said.