PSVAR: Never far away

As the schools return and operators start to see something of normality, the issue of Public Service Vehicle Accessibility Regulations (PSVAR) is never far from our thoughts.

The current situation of ad hoc exemptions is far from ideal and while we all have the right to travel, the way in which PSVAR has been handled by our trade associations and government does leave a bitter taste for many of us.

If, like me, you accept that some rail replacement and applicable home-to-school services may fall within the definition of a local or scheduled service then it becomes a simple matter of following the rules to remain compliant within the scope of PSVAR. However, I am somewhat surprised that the fares versus costs argument has thus far not been fully explored or legally challenged.

For those unfamiliar with the fares versus costs argument, it is contained within the Public Passenger Vehicles Act (PPVA) 1981, Regulation 1 (4). This important clause states the following:

For the purposes of this section a journey made by a vehicle in the course of which one or more passengers are carried at separate fares shall not be treated as made in the course of a business of carrying passengers if—

(a)the fare or aggregate of the fares paid in respect of the journey does not exceed the amount of the running costs of the vehicle for the journey; and

(b)the arrangements for the payment of fares by the passenger or passengers so carried were made before the journey began.

If the conditions of Regulation 1 (4) are met, I do not believe this means a business is no longer acting as a business – case law is clear on that point. I am confident it means the activity is not considered as being for hire or reward by a business.

This important distinction is crucial when determining the classification above when reading the following legislative passages:

  • The Transport Act (TTA) 1985, Regulation 2 (1) Meaning of local service
  • The Public Service Vehicles Accessibility Regulations (PSVAR 2000, Regulation 2 – scheduled service
  • Public Passenger Vehicles Act (PPVA) 1981, Regulation 1 (1) – definition and classification of a public service vehicle.

In short, my argument is that if the conditions of Regulation 1 (4) are met, is the business carrying passengers for hire or reward at separate fares? If not, then it cannot be classed as meeting the requirements required to operate a local or scheduled service for the purposes of the TTA or PSVAR.

There remains however the tricky question of which fares and costs should be used to ensure compliance with Regulation 1 (4).

I argue the running costs and fare(s) are those of the operator of the service. In other words, the train operating company (TOC) or local authority (LA) as they are the entity controlling the service – the coach or bus operator in these circumstances would not be attending unless under contract with the TOC or LA. Similarly, if bus operators operating a local or scheduled service met the obligations of Regulation 1 (4), would they be obligated to follow PSVAR?

There have been a number of leading cases in regards separate fares and costs, however there appears to be no case law in regards the applicability of PSVAR on rail replacement and certain home-to-school services.

As an industry we should be testing the costs versus fares question, initially with government – and if required, then in court.

Only then will we have a definitive answer to the PSVAR question.

Gary Clark

Fleet Development

Classic Bus Hire

Wokingham