In a letter from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Baroness Vere to trade bodies, including the CPT, concerning the future of PSVAR and the application of the regulations which followed many discussions between CPT officers and officials at the Department for Transport over the previous 18 months, there are details regarding Supporting Essential Services: Short Term (August 2021 to 31 March 2022).
The letter confirms that the Department for Transport will consider applications for temporary exemptions (Special Authorisations) for closed door home to school services, from August 2021 to 31 March 2022, on the same terms as the previous exemptions offered in Summer 2020. Operators who may need to apply for these exemptions should email the Department now using HometoSchoolExemptions@dft.gov.uk in order to be informed when application arrangements are released.
In a similar way, Train Operating Companies will be informed of the arrangements for Rail Replacement services
Supporting Essential Services: Medium Term (from 2022 onwards)
The Minister has asked officials to develop plans for medium-term exemptions from 2022
These exemptions will only be made available to those operators who can demonstrate the steps they have taken proactively to provide compliant services.
The full eligibility rules for these medium-term exemptions will be communicated to operators in good time and will be subject to consultation. One option that will be explored is to only provide exemptions from complying with Schedule 1 of the Regulations (wheelchair accessibility) but not from Schedule 3.
Operators may also be expected to operate a minimum number of fully compliant vehicles in order to be eligible for any exemptions.
The Minister advises that all operators should begin planning now if they expect to require exemptions from 2022 onwards. The new exemptions issued in 2022 will replace any exemptions issued previously
The Future of Bus and Coach Accessibility
In the letter the Minister reiterates the commitment included in the National Bus Strategy for England, “Bus Back Better”, to complete a review of the Public Service Vehicle Accessibility Regulations by the end of 2023.
The review is intended to ensure that the accessibility of bus and coach services continues to be informed by the needs and expectations of disabled passengers for the foreseeable future. The Minister goes on to say that Disabled people should be able to take coach holidays or to join their clubs and societies on days out without having to procure alternative transport and officials will, as part of the review, consider specifically how these services could be brought within scope of the Regulations.
The third element of the CPT proposal to Government was that all coaches registered from a date to be agreed with DfT would be required to comply to PSVAR standards, regardless of intended use. The inclusion of this within the proposal was intended to lead to a gradual conversion of the UK coach fleet to 100% accessibility.
CPT believe that introducing requirements for all new vehicles (from a future date that is manageable for the industry) would be a better outcome than a regulation change requiring other types of service to come into scope from specified dates and CPT will continue to press this case with Government.
Access the letter to trade bodies: