Coach operators will face tough action if they don’t comply with the law on the use of wheelchairs in vehicles on scheduled services, warns the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).
It follows complaints and threatened legal action by wheelchair users after a number of incidents.
DVSA CEO Gareth Llewelyn says: “We’re currently investigating a number of cases where drivers, ticketing staff and even coach company call centres seem to be unaware of the law. So we’re working with the Confederation of Passenger Transport to put the record straight, as there appears to be some confusion in the industry.”
The DVSA says it “will not hesitate in investigating and reporting breaches to the Traffic Commissioners, who will then decide whether there are grounds for further action.”
The DVSA is currently investigating three companies who “appear to have broken the rules.”
Coach companies can advise or recommend that wheelchair-using passengers book seats in advance but drivers and other staff cannot require it as a condition of travel, even if they buy a ticket on the day
If the wheelchair space is available – including spaces where seats have to be removed, tipped or folded – coach companies must allow a wheelchair user to occupy it, even if they turn up and buy a ticket on the day.
The only exceptions are that some coaches are not required to have wheelchair spaces until 1 January 2020 or if a service is completely full.
In this case existing passengers are not required to disembark to allow the wheelchair space to be used, but if it’s not the driver should ask other passengers who do not have a legitimate need of the wheelchair space to move to alternative seats.
The key requirements are:
– To ensure that wheelchair users can use available wheelchair spaces, including those that require the removal, folding or tipping of other seats. ‘Available’ means that the coach is not full, that the wheelchair space is not occupied by someone using a wheelchair or that it has not been booked by someone using a wheelchair for all or part of the same journey.
– Not to require passengers who use wheelchairs to book any further in advance than passengers who don’t.
– Simply put, if a wheelchair space is available wheelchair users must be able to use it. Coach operators should ensure all their staff – from drivers to ticketing and contact centre staff – know the law too.
Transport Accessibility Minister Nusrat Ghani says: “How people travel should not be limited by their impairments. It is essential that the transport system is accessible and works for everyone, including those who use wheelchairs.
“The department recently announced its intention to support better access to spaces for wheelchair users so they can travel where they like and with confidence.”