Government makes it clear that it wishes to preserve the industry, though reform is required
The Department for Transport (DfT) has launched its consultation on the use of section 19 and 22 permits for road passenger transport in Great Britain.
The consultation opened on February 8, with the deadline for responses set for May 4, 2018.
In the document’s foreword, the DfT said: “The Government remains committed to supporting the sector and to maintaining the permit system. However, concerns have recently been raised that some community transport operators that use permits are competing with commercial operators, which are required to hold a PSV licence. This is not allowed by European Union (EU) law, which only exempts operators from holding PSV licences in limited circumstances.
“We are therefore consulting on how to clarify domestic law and guidance to ensure fair competition for commercial contracts and greater clarity for operators as to their EU legal obligations.
“The majority of community transport operators should not be affected by any clarification of the EU rules. It is important to be clear that the EU rules only apply to vehicles with more than eight passenger seats and that the EU rules exempt operators of such vehicles if their primary purpose is not transport or if they operate services that cannot be properly considered commercial, for example where there are no alternative non-community transport providers who offer journeys to or from similar destinations, where alternative providers are content to provide confirmation that they do not regard the community transport operator as a competitor, where the service is an occasional activity organised on a voluntary basis with an unpaid driver for a specific group of people; or where the service is either free of charge or the charge is substantially less than the cost of providing the service.
“The Government is also seeking to apply EU rules which would exempt services where operators have only a minor impact on the transport market because of the short distances involved.
“We hope that together these steps will reassure the sector, allow those CT operators which are affected to continue to provide valuable services for passengers while they work toward compliance, and to minimise any additional costs which they will incur. The Government has no plans to end the current permit system and its commitment to supporting this sector remains as strong as ever.”
Bill Freeman, CEO of the Community Transport Association (CTA) said: “We’ve known this was coming for over six months and there will be mixed feelings amongst our membership about the launch. We know some will be relieved it’s finally underway, as the uncertainty has been as debilitating for their organisations. Others will feel uncomfortable engaging in a discussion about reforms they disagree with.
“Whatever your viewpoint, the consultation is now here and we need to work together on it like we did on the Transport Select Committee Inquiry in the autumn. This was a great example of our sector working collaboratively, with most of the 300 responses supporting our sector and a third of these being based on CTA’s template and guidance. It is important that we do the same again.”
The consultation can be found at www.gov.uk/government/consultations/section-19-and-22-permits-how-to-apply-eu-regulation-10712009