H2S PSVAR exemption extension draws mixed responses

Extension of PSVAR exemptions for home to school services draws contrasting views

Two early responses from trade bodies to the news that exemptions from PSVAR for in-scope home-to-school services will receive a four-month extension to 31 July 2022 have aired contrasting views.

The UK Coach Operators Association (UKCOA) welcomes the announcement by Under-Secretary of State for Transport Baroness Vere. RHA, however, has reacted less positively. It questions why her letter of 16 December makes no mention the responsibility that sits with education bodies and local authorities (LAs) to prioritise accessibility where it is available.

UKCOA was the first representative body to comment on the development. Chair Stephen Telling has subsequently reiterated UKCOA’s welcome of the extension for in-scope home-to-school services, describing the development as “an important step while the existing PSV Accessibility Regulations are reviewed over the next two years.”

Mr Telling adds that UKCOA is committed to working with the Department for Transport and the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee on that review. It will particularly focus on ensuring “that the design of the lift in coaches is suitable for all people with health conditions or impairments, not just those who use wheelchairs, and is easy and safe to use.”

RHA Operations Manager – Coach Sector Andy Warrender, meanwhile, has described a “lack of any real progress” on PSVAR in Lady Vere’s letter as “frustrating,” although he acknowledges that the extension to home-to-school exemptions provides further time to explore options for the provision of accessible journeys “where this is required.”

In questioning why education bodies and LAs’ responsibilities are not mentioned by Lady Vere, Mr Warrender says that some RHA coach operator members have invested heavily in vehicles that comply with PSVAR (in some cases over many years), but that those efforts are “not being fully rewarded.”

He adds that RHA will continue to pursue any cases where educational bodies or LAs are failing short in their responsibilities to prioritise accessibility where it is available “and… would welcome any evidence of this.”

RHA’s established position on PSVAR is that access to journeys, rather than to vehicles, should be the priority for government. Under the Association’s proposals that were published in August, a requirement for operators to take reasonable steps to offer 100% accessible services would be phased in over five years.