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 advent of the world-wide pandemic has led to most operators struggling financially as fleets have 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. The minister responsible, Baroness Vere, has stated that she will review the position again over the next few months.
Accessibility at Anderson Travel
The good news is that we at Anderson Travel have been able to increase our PSVAR fleet with some success. By September 2021 and the start of a new academic year for schools, 50% of our fleet will be fully PSVAR-compliant. To quote our company director, Mark Anderson, “We felt it was something we needed to do and we can now say with some certainty that if we receive a request from a wheelchair user then we can provide a suitable vehicle to ensure that said wheelchair user can travel with his/her peers. Further to that, when we operate in certain markets, such as rail replacement services, then we will be able to use compliant vehicles for accessibility. On all our home to school services, seats have been pre-booked and we know exactly who will be travelling with us. By working with the schools and colleges we work with, we can ensure the most suitable vehicle is always supplied. We carry over 1300 children to and from school every day keeping some 600 cars off the busy roads of London, reducing congestion and pollution. We can now add to that impressive statistic with our ability to provide inclusivity & accessibility for all our passengers”.