Third rail replacement PSVAR exemption granted

Minister of State for Transport Chris Heaton-Harris has granted a further temporary exemption to the requirement for PSVAR compliance on rail replacement services. It will commence on 1 May and expire on 31 December.

To obtain a special authorisation valid from 1 May, operators must fill in a form supplied by either a Train Operating Company (TOC) or a rail replacement service provider. That should be returned directly to the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) by 1700hrs on Tuesday 28 April.

RDG will pass on all collated applications to the Department for Transport (DfT). DfT will then review the forms and “make decisions on issuing special authorisation certificates accordingly.”

Applications received after 28 April are not guaranteed to be processed by 1 May. The current exemption expires on 30 April. Previous special authorisations issued under earlier exemptions will no longer be valid beyond that date.

When granted, the operator must keep a copy of the exemption certificate in the vehicle during its operation in rail replacement services. Operators are also advised to ensure that the vehicle has documentary proof that they have been contracted by the TOC to provide a rail replacement service at the relevant time and date.

Rail replacement PSVAR compliance still expected eventually

In a letter sent to RDG Chief Executive Paul Plummer, Mr Heaton-Harris has reaffirmed his previous view that he expects overall PSVAR compliance on rail replacement work to be achieved in the future. To that end, he has informed RDG that he requires a written update on the situation every three months describing the progress made.

Mr Heaton-Harris accepts that “the supply of compliant vehicles is not within the [rail] industry’s gift.” He also acknowledges that the issue is one that the rail industry cannot resolve alone. Mr Heaton-Harris gives no indication of how the coach and bus sector can be assisted or encouraged to increase the supply of compliant vehicles.

The Minister additionally noted that earlier proposals made by RDG regarding the issue of PSVAR compliance on rail replacement were not ambitious enough.

routeone is attempting to discover what those proposals constituted. In his letter, Mr Heaton-Harris notes that while the RDG proposals “are potentially a step in the right direction, we must be more ambitious about how and by when PSVAR compliance can be achieved”.

Further discussions on compliance expected by Minister

By granting a third exemption for rail replacement services, Mr Heaton-Harris adds that he expects RDG “to hold further multi-modal, multi-organisational discussions and explore and devise a more ambitious timeline than that currently proposed in respect of planned and unplanned disruption.”

As part of the latest exemption, it remains the case that rail replacement providers must source and use PSVAR-compliant vehicles wherever possible. Use of non-compliant coaches and buses is only permitted when “all other compliant options have been exhausted”. Alternative transport is to be provided for disabled passengers in those cases.

This is an evolving story. Further updates will be added when available. Last update: 1648hrs, 23 April. Details of application process and on-vehicle requirements added.