I am not sure what Gary Clark is trying to prove in last month’s issue, but here is a brief synopsis of PSVAR regarding railway replacement services.
The coach or bus operator enters into a contract with the train operating company (TOC) to provide an alternative service between point A and point B for an agreed sum. Part of that contract will usually stipulate that vehicles used should be PSVAR–certified, therefore the operators must provide vehicles that satisfy that requirement.
Even if there is no mention in the contract for provision of PSVAR (and I would expect every TOC will ensure it’s included), there are overriding factors that make it necessary to provide such vehicles. That is because passengers are being carried at separate fares on what is, in effect, a local bus service which is open to the public.
Therefore, if you accept a contract from a TOC, you should comply with its contents. Home to school transport is a little different and there are three types:
- If the local authority (LA) pays the operator for the vehicle and does not charge any of the scholars, then it’s outside PSVAR and any type of vehicle can be used. I suspect that most school contracts meet this requirement
- However, if the LA is selling seats to scholars who are not eligible for free school transport, then it becomes a commercial service and requires PSVAR–certified vehicles
- If an operator is contracted by a place of learning to provide transport for their students, and these students pay either the operator directly or the school collects the fares either directly or indirectly, then the vehicles have to be PSVAR. Only if the services are free to every student can it be outside PSVAR.
So, it’s up to the LAs to choose between A or B. If they choose B to increase their revenue, they will have to expect the tender price to increase as they are requesting operators to offer a different type of vehicle.
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