DfT confirms details of month-long PSVAR exemption for rail replacement

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The Department for Transport (DfT) has written a letter to train operators outlining how coach and bus operators can apply for a temporary exemption from PSVAR regulations when carrying out rail replacement services.

PSVAR – the Public Service Vehicles Accessibility Regulations 2000 – requires coaches and buses designed to carry over 22 passengers on local and scheduled routes to incorporate things like a wheelchair space and a ramp or lift.

Although the regulations were first introduced at the turn of the century, measures have been applied gradually ever since, so far only affecting coaches built from 2005 onwards.

However, from 1 January, PSVAR will expand its reach to cover all appropriate vehicles first used before 1 January 2005.

“We have become aware that there is a significant shortage of PSVAR-compliant vehicles for operators to procure in order to provide rail replacement services currently, or from 1 January 2020 onwards,” the letter reads.

In order to help mitigate this shortage of vehicles, the DfT is offering operators of rail replacement services a temporary exemption from PSVAR but says it “expects operators to do all they can to source compliant vehicles before using non-compliant ones.

“Where non-compliant vehicles are used,” the letter continues, “operators must provide accessible alternative transport, and make arrangements in advance to ensure such transport is readily available during planned rail replacement services, so as to avoid unnecessary and extended waiting periods for passengers who require such alternative accessible transport.”

The exemption will last a month, concluding at 2359hrs on 31 January, regardless of when it is granted. Operators are encouraged to apply for exemptions as soon as possible, ahead of the 20 December deadline. If an exemption is granted, operators will receive an electronic certificate which must then be passed on to company organising the rail replacement service.

Applications can be submitted after the deadline, but the DfT has warned that they may not be granted in time for 1 January, depending on the number of applications it receives.

The full list of requirements are as follows:

  • The exemption applies to any coaches or buses used to provide Rail Replacement (RR) services either contracted by or under direct control of the relevant Train Operating Company (TOC);
  • The exemption only applies to services used to convey rail passengers. Coaches/buses deployed as a RR services cannot carry any person who is not using the service in lieu of a scheduled rail service;
  • The exemption applies to coaches and buses provided by the Operator applying for the exemption utilised to provide transport in lieu of scheduled rail services that appear in the relevant TOC timetable and that have been cancelled due to the requirements of a scheduled blockade or un-planned incident/event;
  • The exemption will only apply to identified coaches/buses used by the TOC to provide specific RR services when operating between the stations unable to offer rail services due to a blockade or incident/event;
  • The exemption does not apply for coaches/buses travelling to a location to start providing rail replacement services; and
  • The exemption does not apply for coaches/buses travelling from a location at the end of providing rail replacement services.

To apply, operators must contact the relevant train operator for a copy of the application form, which must then be sent via email to the DfT.