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PSVAR – Let us not forget

It was on Wednesday 13 April last year, just a few days before Easter that the email arrived from the DfT announcing the launch of medium-term exemptions (MTEs) from the Public Service Vehicles Accessibility Regulations 2000 (PSVAR) for Rail Replacement (RR) and Home-to-School (HTS) services.

It gave us, in effect, a four year exemption plus an incremental plan to improve accessibility of the RR and HTS fleets. It introduced the concept of PSVAR partial compliance, something that we as a trade body had worked closely with the DfT in developing. It also tried to provide a balance with those operators who had got themselves ready in time for the original deadline at the beginning of 2020. The first milestone in these new exemptions was August 2023 which back then seemed a long time away.

Operator Categories

The MTEs introduced 4 separate categories for operators as follows:

  • Band A – 1 to 5 vehicles
  • Band B – 6 to 9 vehicles
  • Band C – 10 to 29 vehicles
  • Band D – over 30 vehicles

The vehicle fleet size solely related to those vehicles used on RR and HTS, not the operator’s entire fleet.

Fully and Partially Compliance

The MTE’s also introduced the category of Fully Compliant and Partially Compliant.

Fully compliant’ refers to a vehicle that complies with all paragraphs of the following parts of PSVAR:

  • schedule 1, concerning facilities for wheelchair users
  • schedule 3, concerning other accessibility features

Partially compliant’ refers to a vehicle that is not fully compliant, but as a minimum complies with the following parts of PSVAR schedule 3:

  • paragraph 2 (floors and gangways)
  • paragraph 3 (seats)
  • paragraph 4 (steps, excluding sub-paragraphs 1d, 1e, 1f, and 5)
  • paragraph 5 (handrails)

ie: it does NOT include any requirement for a wheelchair lift or destination equipment.

First Deadline approaches – 1 August 2023

These steps commence on 1 August 2023. From that date all operators (ie Bands A to D) must ensure that of the fleet of coaches that are allocated for use on RR or HTS, 25% of them must meet the PSVAR partially compliant category.

In addition, for operators in Band D (ie with 30 or more RR and HTS coaches), 15% must be fully compliant with PSVAR.

So for example:

  • Band A operators with 4 RR/HTS vehicles will need 1 partially compliant coach
  • Band B operators with 8 RR/HTS vehicles will need 2 partially compliant coaches
  • Band C operators with 25 RR/HTS vehicles will need 7 partially compliant coaches
  • Band D operators with 40 RR/HTS vehicles will need 6 fully compliant, and 10 partly compliant coaches

The majority of operators should find ‘Partially Compliance’ relatively easy, as most coaches manufactured since 2008 (and some before that date) meet the requirements. Never-the-less I would strongly recommend checking with the manufacturer of the vehicle that it does comply with the Partially Compliance category and more specifically that the handrails meet the ‘colour contrasting’ category requirements. Please don’t get caught out on a technicality.

Next Steps

Further incremental steps are applied on 1 August 2024 and 2025. However, the sting in the tail is (and I quote from the GOV.UK webpage https://bit.ly/3Gv2rF5):

‘These exemptions will expire on 31 July 2026. From 1 August 2026, operators will be expected to comply with PSVAR in full, subject to any changes which may be implemented as a result of the upcoming review of PSVAR’.

The review is underway and I understand we will be hearing from the DfT soon. The UKCOA and I am sure other trade bodies will be fully involved in the review. However please participate when asked to do so. This is too important to ignore.