Applications open for PSVAR exemptions to 2026

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Operators can now apply for an exemption from the Public Service Vehicles Accessibility Regulations (PSVAR) for home-to-school or rail replacement coach services until 2026 subject to meeting the criteria

New medium-term exemption rules for operators with coaches that are non-compliant or partially compliant with PSVAR, which are used to provide either a ‘closed door’ home-to-school or rail replacement services give operators extend the existing short-term exemptions to 2026. The existing arrangements will be replaced by the new requirements on 1 July, and the new arrangements will remain in force until 31 July 2026.

The Government said in a policy document that despite a clear signal, it has not seen the necessary increase in the number of compliant vehicles, and believes the exemptions are required to encourages compliance with PSVAR so that more disabled people and disabled school children can travel alongside non-disabled passengers, ensures such services can continue, reduce uncertainty for operators and commissioners such services, and avoid small and micro business operators going out of business.

The document explains that the new medium term exemptions have steps requiring operators to progressively increase the compliance of their fleet to be either fully or partially compliant by the start of 1 August 2025 and will bridge the gap between now and 2026, by which point the planned review of PSVAR should have concluded and any necessary post-review amendments implemented.

Applications must be received by 17 May for fleets providing solely rail replacement services or which operate rail replacement and home to school transport, and 31 May for fleets which solely operate home to school services. Only one application will be required from each operator; applications are received after the deadline may not be processed at all or ahead of the current round of short-term exemptions expiring.

A copy of the exemption must be carried on board any vehicle in the operator’s fleet that is not fully compliant and is used for home to school or rail replacement work. An exemption does not absolve the commissioner of the services from the obligation to provide alternative accessible transport to passengers who cannot access vehicles covered by an exemption because they do not comply with PSVAR. Operators holding an exemption must obtain and retain alongside the exemption written confirmation that such alternative accessible transport will be provided. Non-compliance with any terms and conditions listed on the exemption certificate will be treated as non-compliance with PSVAR.

From 1 August 2026, operators will be expected to comply with PSVAR in full, subject to any changes which may be implemented as a result of the upcoming review of the regulations.

Exemption compliance requirements will depend on assigned bands which cover fleet sizes. All vehicles granted an exemption will be exempt from PSVAR between 1 July 2022 and 31 July 2023. Thereafter, the following bands will apply:
Band A For fleet sizes between 1 and 5 vehicles.

  • By 1 August 2023, at least 25% of vehicles partially compliant;
  • By 1 August 2024, at least 50% of vehicles partially compliant;
  • By 1 August 2025, at least one fully compliant vehicle and the remainder partially compliant.

Band B For fleet sizes between 6 and 9 vehicles.

  • By 1 August 2023, at least 25% of vehicles partially compliant;
  • By 1 August 2024, at least one fully compliant vehicle and 50% of the rest opf hthe fleet partially compliant;
  • By 1 August 2025, at least two fully compliant vehicles and the remainder partially compliant.

Band C For fleet sizes between 10 and 29 vehicles.

  • By 1 August 2023, at least 25% of vehicles partially compliant;
  • By 1 August 2024, at least 15% of vehicles fully compliant and the remainder partially compliant;
  • By 1 August 2025, at least 25% of the fleet fully compliant vehicle and the remainder partially compliant.

Band D For fleet sizes of 30 vehicles or more.

  • By 1 August 2023, at least 15% of vehicles fully compliant and at least 25% partially compliant;
  • By 1 August 2024, at least 25% of vehicles fully compliant and at least 50% partially compliant;
  • By 1 August 2025, at least 35% fully compliant and the remainder partially compliant.

It should be noted that ‘fleet’ refers to the total number of vehicles used for home to school or rail replacement services, and vehicles not used on such work do not count. ‘Fully compliant’ refers to a vehicle that complies with all paragraphs of the following parts of PSVAR whilst ‘partially compliant’ means a vehicle which complies with requirements on floors, gangways, seats, steps and handrails but not necessarily lift equipment or destination equipment.