Staffordshire County Council (SCC) will no longer permit fare-paying passengers on its contracted school services after the October half term. That will bring them in line with PSVAR.
In a letter to parents and carers last week, SCC explains that the move came following legal advice.
Lack of existing PSVAR compliance?
Vehicles with more than 22 passenger seats must comply with PSVAR from 1 January 2020 if used on local services where separate fares are charged. Many of those are already in scope of the Regulations, although there has been no evidence of enforcement.
“As most of our contractors’ vehicles are not fully accessible, we will unfortunately no longer be legally able to carry fare-paying passengers,” SCC says.
It is thought that SCC is not the only local authority to have taken this view. It is unclear how many of the vehicles currently used by its contractors should already be PSVAR compliant.
PSVAR currently requires that buses, and coaches first used on or after 1 January 2005, comply when on in-scope duties. Coaches first used on or after 1 January 2001 are also subject to PSVAR when on the same work, with the exception of wheelchair access.
SCC has conveyed to the government that the change will have an “unintended impact” on some families. It says it will continue to lobby on the matter.
Change in 2020
From 1 January 2020, all coaches with more than 22 passenger seats, regardless of age, will be required to comply with PSVAR in its entirety when used on a scheduled or local service where separate fares are charged.
SCC will carry otherwise fare-paying passengers for free until the October half-term, up to the vehicle’s seating capacity. Beyond that, the offer will be withdrawn and parents and carers will need to make alternative arrangements.