DfT addresses government call for evidence in PSVAR review

Coach PSVAR ready prominence moderate

The UK government’s call for evidence on the review of the Public Service Vehicle Accessibility Regulations (PSVAR) was addressed by Yann Holzapfel and Jack Fantham, the Department for Transport’s dedicated resource tasked with handling the review, at the UKCOA Annual Conference on 13 March.

Regarding the review, Mr Holzapfel outlined the six areas of focus: The scope of PSVAR, the features required on board, regulation, alignment with net zero, non-regulated issues, and enforcement and data collection. He stressed that the review is still going through internal processes and may be subject to adjustments.

Beginning with the scope of PSVAR, which currently applies to local and scheduled services, Mr Holzapfel emphasised that the review would ask whether operators wanted the scope to be reduced if too burdensome, or increased, and would take into account all information gathered before making a decision. “If all the information that comes back to us says nothing should change, then ministers are quite free to make that decision,” he says. “On the other hand, there is a great desire for change – and we could go down that route.”

The second area of the review will focus on the features that are required on board public service vehicles that are in scope, such as wheelchairs and their use. Mr Holzapfel explained that the review is open to considering innovative approaches, particularly for coaches taken abroad.

The third area of the review will consider how PSVAR is regulated, with Mr Holzapfel noting that an outcome-based approach (such as how a wheelchair is loaded on board) may be more relevant if the scope expands and smaller vehicles are included.

The fourth area will focus on alignment with net-zero carbon emissions, acknowledging the financial burden that both adjustments will place on operators, while the fifth will consider issues related to PSVAR but not regulated by PSVAR, such as kerb height, stops, stations, driver conduct, and passenger conduct. Mr Holzapfel acknowledged that not addressing such issues would be “half the battle lost”, adding that roadside infrastructure is often a local authority issue. “Though I can’t say that my team could change the law to deal with anything like that, we would certainly pass that on to other teams to have a look at,” he adds.

Finally, the review will ask whether operators are happy with how PSVAR is enforced and whether any changes need to be made to data collection as it links to enforcement.

Mr Holzapfel emphasised that the call for evidence is an opportunity for the industry to provide feedback on making PSVAR more accessible for all, not just wheelchair users. The review aims to consider all viewpoints on the Regulations and their application, and any changes made will be informed by the evidence received.

He adds that the call for evidence presents a potential business opportunity as the UK population continues to age, and the industry’s perspective on making accessibility easier and better for all is of great interest to the review team.

“Regardless of what we say towards the end of the year, any changes that may or may not happen (should we decide that change is needed) is going to take some time,” he concludes. “This is not something that’s going to be dropped on you straight away if changes are to happen. You’ll be given notice, and we will look to align this with decarbonisation.”

Highlighting the upcoming second period of the medium-term exemptions, which will come into effect on 1 August, Mr Holzapfel acknowledged the financial pressures that the recent events have placed on the industry and assured delegates that these concerns have been considered during the review.