What is PSVAR?
Accessibility has become an increasingly important consideration for businesses in all industries, including coach hire & the wider travel industry. With regards to accessible vehicles specifically, the UK government introduced a piece of legislation called the Public Service Vehicle Accessibility Regulations (PSVAR) in 2000. The main PSVAR requirements include space for a wheelchair & a boarding device to enable wheelchair users to get on and off vehicles. Dates were outlined as to when different classes of buses & coaches would need to abide by PSVAR standards of accessibility and for which types of services.
How have accessibility requirements affected the coach industry?
While the provision of PSVAR-compliant, accessible coaches by the main operators of scheduled services in the UK has taken off, the roll out of PSVAR coaches has not been so effective in private hire, home to school, and other markets where coaches operate. The Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC) expressed regret that they estimate only around 600 PSVAR-compliant vehicles out of around 25000 are available in the ‘for hire’ coach sector.
One of the issues is financing the vehicle changes required to make them accessible. No grants have been made available to this sector and the pandemic has left most operators struggling financially, after their fleets stood idle for months.
Controversy over Home to School Services & Accessibility Requirements
From 1st January 2020 it became unlawful to use a non-PSVAR compliant coach on a scheduled service for which a charge is made. There was a lot of debate around the issue of whether home to school journeys should be included in this category. The government’s position is that they should be included, whereas most of the industry at no point believed home to school services were to be considered in scope.
The result of all this was a shortage of 4000-6000 PSVAR-compliant vehicles for home to school services as of 1st January 2020. This has inevitably led to exemptions being provided to coach operators providing home to school services until 1st August 2021.
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