DfT announce a temporary exemption of PSVAR for some school services

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The complexity surrounding Public Service Vehicle Accessibility Regulations took another turn last week, with the Department for Transport announcing a temporary exception in certain circumstances

The Department for Transport (DfT) has written to local authorities and schools which procure home to school (HTS) services regarding Public Service Vehicle Accessibility Regulations (PSVAR). The DfT is introducing an application process for temporary exemptions for vehicles on specific services, which currently do not meet PSVAR regulations. The exemption will be for two years and is available via the organisation procuring the service where a separate fare is paid by (or for) 20% or less of those entitled to travel.

Operators have been busy updating their fleets with wheelchair accessible vehicles to meet the PSVAR deadline. RICHARD SHARMAN

If the two year period proves insufficient, DfT is proposing that those who procure HTS services may be given a further two year exemption period (from 2022) but only 50% of services procured by a provider could have such an exemption.

Operators that run a HTS service that runs to a timetable and for which separate fares are payable – and which meets the 20% or less criterion (as above) – will need to ensure that details of any vehicles that they are seeking an exemption for are provided to the local authority or school in order that a special authorisation can be granted.

Discussions with the DfT are ongoing with regards to rail replacement services – the above only applies to home to school services.

CPT’s Operations Director Keith McNally has issued the following statement in reaction: “This is a welcome first step in seeking a resolution that ensures that coach operators can continue to provide vital home to school transport.

“There is still much to be done to ensure there is clarity for services that fall outside the scope of this exemption, including rail replacement services. We continue to speak to the DfT about this issue and those home to school services with fall outside the scope for an exemption.

“All operators that provide home to school services that are in scope of PSVAR should contact their procuring organisation directly if they do not hear from them in the next few days.

This situation may frustrate many operators who have been upgrading their fleets to PSVAR compliant vehicles in time for the deadline of 1 January 2020. The lack of clarity on the issue of the final part of PSVAR has caused much confusion in the industry. These details go some way to clearing up one issue, but the CPT is still in discussions with the DfT over how PSVAR affects rail replacement services.