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PSVAR – Accessibility for Coaches – Further Extension to Vehicle Exemptions

The Public Service Vehicle Accessibility Regulations 2000, to give “PSVAR” its full name is a piece of legislation which prescribes accessibility requirements for public service vehicles, i.e coaches and buses etc.  Since the regulations’ inception in 2000 the general position has been that all new buses and coaches designed to carry more than 22 passengers used on local or scheduled services have been required to be fully accessible in accordance with the terms specified in the regulations.  Initially vehicles manufactured before October 2000 were exempt but the legislation was drafted in such a way as to allow for a staged roll-out of the regulations for older vehicles at set dates, the last one of which was on 1st January 2020 (see our article here to refresh your knowledge).  After this date only Home to School services (“HTS”) and Rail Replacement services (“RR”) were exempt from the regulations, with a date of 31st March 2022 set for both HTS and RR services to be included under the regulatory umbrella.

In December 2021 Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Transport Minister for Roads, Buses and Places) wrote to the Chief Executives of the Bus & Coach Trade Bodes, the Association of Transport Co-Ordinating Officers and the Rail Delivery Group expressing her wish to ensure that disabled people can travel as easily as non-disabled passengers on coaches and buses, but acknowledging that when the regulations expire on 31st March 2022 the “lack of clarity on what will follow them could prevent local authorities, schools and colleges from making plans for the remainder of the current academic year”.  She therefore proposed extending the exemptions to 31st July 2022, but reminded all operators who are still using vehicles subject to the Regulations but unable to comply with them that they must be covered by a further exemption to operate such services, or be adapted to be compliant.

Exemption Extension:

The extension of the exemption is applicable to operators with coaches that are non-compliant or partially compliant with PSVAR 2000 which are used to provide either or both of the following services:

  • A ‘closed door’ home to school (HTS) services, transporting eligible passengers to and from educational institutions
  • A rail replacement (RR) service, transporting passengers to their destination when train services cannot run.

The deadline for applying for an exemption extension depends on whether you offer both services or just one or the other;

  • For fleets providing only RR services the deadline is 17th May 2022 to apply;
  • For fleets providing both RR and HTS services the deadline to apply is 17th May 2022; and
  • For fleets providing only HTS services the deadline to apply is 31st May 2022.

Only one application will be required from each operator, whether they are applying for exemptions to operate HTS, RR or both.  In order to complete the application you will need to provide:

  • Your contact details
  • Your O Licence number
  • Your vehicle identification number (VIN) for each vehicle in your fleet (whether it is PSVAR compliant or not)
  • The contact details for the commissioning train operating comany(ies) for RR services.

You can click here to access the application form on the government’s website.

Where granted, exemptions will commence on 1st July 2022 and expire on 31st July 2026, assuming the holder meets the applicable compliance terms.

If granted an exemption, a copy of the exemption document must then be carried onboard any vehicle in the operator’s fleet that is not fully compliant with PSVAR 2000 and is used for HTS or RR services.  The exemption does not absolve the commissioner of an HTS or RR service from the obligation to provide alternative accessible transport to passengers who cannot access vehicles covered by an exemption because they are not PSVAR compliant and as such operators holding an exemption must obtain and retain alongside the exemption written confirmation that such alternative accessible transport will be provided.

Once an exemption has been applied for and granted, the operator must then ensure that they comply with new “medium term exemption” band requirements which give deadlines depending on the size of the fleet for when a certain number of vehicles within their fleets must be fully/partially compliant.

For example, Band A requires operators of fleets of between 1 and 5 vehicles to ensure that 25% of their fleet is “partially compliant” by 1st August 2023, that at least 50% of their fleet is partially compliant by 1st August 2024 and that by 1st August 2025 they are using at least 1 fully compliant vehicle, with the rest of the fleet partially compliant.  There are 4 bands, with band D for fleets of 30 vehicles or above.  Click here for further information.

The government advice makes clear that non-compliance with the terms and conditions listed on the exemption certificate will be treated as non-compliance with PSVAR and may be subject to enforcement action by the DVSA and that this includes adhering to exemption terms which will require increasing levels of compliance with PSVAR over time.

Final Deadline:

All operators should note that from 1st August 2026 all operators of PSV vehicles designed to carry more than 22 passengers will be expected to comply with PSVAR in full, so operators would be well advised to begin planning for this hard deadline as soon as possible.

If you need any advice or clarification as to whether your transport business is affected by these regulations, then please do not hesitate to get in touch.  you can call 01279 818280 or click here to send us and email.  Our team of lawyers are here to help.