Disabled Peoples Right to use Coach Services.
The Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC) an extremely important and influential government advisory body has finally written a piece on the accessibility of coach services. Whilst acknowledging the limitations to access unique to coaches as a result in the main of the width and height of the front entrance steps DPTAC encourage, operators the Department of Transport and manufacturers to come together to find a solution to this in the short to medium term.
DPTAC was pleased that when the Public Service Vehicle Access regulations (PSVAR) were extended to cover coaches the main operators of scheduled services moved quickly to ensure compliance. However, that roll out of PSVAR coaches has not been so effective in private hire, home to school or other markets were coaches operate. As a result it is estimated that only 600 compliant vehicles are available in the “for hire” sector out of more than 25000 vehicles currently in commercial use.
From 1st January 2020 it became unlawful to use a non-PSVAR compliant coach on a scheduled service for which a charge is made. There was a lot of confusion around the issue of whether home to school should have been included in this. The government’s position is that it should whereas the industry at no point believed home to school was to be considered in scope.
The result of all this was that the national vehicle park was short of some 4000-6000 compliant vehicles for home to school services as at 1st January 2020 and this has meant an inevitable dispensation with regards to the legislation until 1st August 2021 with the Minister responsible Baroness Vere again stating she will review the position over the next few months.
Add to the problem a world-wide pandemic with many operators struggling financially as fleets have stood idle for the past twelve months and the average cost per unit of retro fitting a wheel chair lift being £28000.00 and you can see the huge financial pressure put upon operators to try and increase the number of PSVAR vehicles they have. It should be pointed out here there are no grants available to have any of this work done.
However, London based Anderson Travel, with depots at both Tower Bridge and Heathrow Airport have been able to increase its PSVAR fleet with some success. By September 2021 and the start of a new academic year for schools, 50% of the 40 vehicle fleet will be fully compliant from a standing start just 12 months ago of zero. Commented Managing Director, Mark Anderson, “We felt it was something we needed to do and we can now say with some certainty that if we receive a request from, in particular, a wheel chair user then we can provide a suitable vehicle to ensure that that wheel chair user can travel with their peers and other group members. Further to that when we operate in certain markets where we just do not know who will turn up, such as rail replacement or inter city services then we will be able to operate it using a PSVAR compliant vehicle. On all our home to school services seats have been pre booked and we know exactly who will be travelling with us and by working with the schools and colleges we operate for we can ensure a suitable vehicle is supplied. We carry over 1300 children to and from school every day keeping some 600 cars off the busy roads of London reducing congestion and pollution. We can now add to that impressive statistic with our ability to provide inclusivity for all our passengers”