Ministers are “actively considering” how PSVAR will apply to in-scope home-to-school services after the current exemption expires on 31 July, the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) has told members. But CPT has expressed a belief that a decision on what happens after that – and most pressingly, whether a further round of special authorisations will be issued – is at least two weeks away.
CPT was among trade bodies that met officials from the Department for Transport (DfT) on 14 June to discuss how PSVAR applies to coaches and the pending end of the exemption for home-to-school services. It says that the conversation was part of long-running work between CPT and DfT that has already delivered exemptions for both home-to-school and rail replacement services.
However, the Confederation adds that DfT has “reiterated [its] desire to increase accessibility” in the coach sector. Because of that, Department officials “want to make the right decisions” to ensure that its scope expands. CPT says that DfT understands the need for clarity in assisting a sector that has been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is understood that the continuing lack of clarity on how PSVAR will apply to home-to-school service from the start of the 2021/22 academic year is also affecting local authorities. When tendering for new contracts to commence then, some have asked for two prices – one that includes compliance with PSVAR and one that does not.
CPT has also added further weight to the call for an increased focus on infrastructure that permits PSVAR compliant coaches to utilise lifts safely. That has long been a bone of contention for the industry, with many operators saying that accessible coaches have little benefit on many in-scope services owing to the frequent impossibility of deploying the lift.
Separately, CPT Operations Director Keith McNally says that DfT has “acknowledged that it sees merit” in the Confederation’s already-submitted proposal to find a long-term solution to increasing PSVAR compliance in the coach sector. Mr McNally adds that DfT officials view the document “as a positive contribution to finding a solution to the current challenge.”