Every week, I read articles about PSVAR written by worried and confused operators. For me, my position on this matter has never changed.
I will not invest much money until I know what the future, permanent solution will be, and I fail to understand why everyone else doesn’t adopt the same attitude.
I don’t care what the rules are. If they are ridiculous, they must be challenged, and they have been challenged – and finally the Department for Transport (DfT) seems to be beginning to understand just what a ridiculous situation was emerging.
Yes, the pandemic means we all have no money; and yes, we all invested into Euro VI a couple of years ago; and yes, the push towards electrification is on the horizon at some point. But this is a singular issue, and it involves providing accessible transport for anyone that needs it.
The blanket 100% compliance – especially on in-scope home-to-school (H2S) services – does not fit the requirements. Even on rail work, why does every coach on a matrix need to be accessible when not every single carriage on the train is? The bottom line is that these regulations were not written for coaches. If you asked Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps or Transport Minister Chris Heaton-Harris to sit down and explain to all of us the difference between coaches and buses, they would no doubt not have a clue.
Coaches are private and not public vehicles – and whenever coaches are used to provide services to the public, then without doubt, a percentage need to provide the key issue, which is making sure anyone with a disability is not excluded.
There has only ever been one permanent solution if a new set of regulations are not written for private service vehicles. Many operators have already invested so they must be treated fairly, and of course we must cater for the needs of any situation where a disabled person needs or wants transport.
Chris Coles has been the man to really try and get the key points across to DfT. If all operators make 10% of their fleet over 22 seats PSVAR compliant, it solves every issue, and ticks every box for every party. I am of the belief that this surely has to be the permanent solution and I live in hope that at some point common sense will prevail.
I have ordered a PSVAR 29 seater, because I believe that I need to make 10% of my fleet PSVAR compliant, and I want to feel that I am doing the right thing without being forced to do anything ridiculous (which I will not do regardless of who tells me to). I also feel that on H2S transport the application of Schedule 3 is not a bad idea – destination blinds and extra safety and illumination in my opinion can only be a good thing when we are transporting the most precious cargo (namely schoolchildren). However, the fitting of a wheelchair lift to 100% of vehicles is ridiculous, and needs to be called out as ridiculous without anyone having a tantrum and saying it is discrimination, because it is absolutely not.
I guess as operators we need to do what we think is best. But I don’t lose any sleep over PSVAR, because until DfT finally gets to the common sense solution, I will do what I think is best, and not what a Baroness with no idea about the regulations tells me what to do.
Greg White, St Albans