Coach travel can be more accessible but regulations have to change. Ministers will be reviewing PSVAR regulations – we say provisions should focus on the journey not just the vehicle.” That’s the view of trade body RHA Coach.
Coach travel will be more accessible if Public Service Vehicle Accessibility Regulations 2000 (PSVAR) focus on journeys rather than vehicles, it argues.
It comes after a new interpretation by the Department for Transport brought ‘closed door’ journeys – i.e ones that are not open to the general public – within scope of PSVAR.
The original interpretation was that only journeys by single passengers paying separate fares – coving scheduled bus and coach services such as National Express and Megabus – would be covered, while private hire day trips and holidays would be excluded.
While this stands, the new interpretation has brought home-to-school services provided by operators on behalf of local councils under contract into scope. These tend to use older vehicles, and are only open to specific pupils. This with accessibility needs are already carried on bespoke vehicles under separate contracts.
In practice, this means supplying PSVAR vehicles for home-to-school, despite it being very unlikely that the wheelchair facilities would ever be used.
Coaches with more than 22 passenger seats which come within the definition of a ‘regulated public service vehicle’ – and used on a service deemed in scope of PSVAR – should be compliant, says the government.
In a new Policy Document (download below), RHA Coach urges ministers to amend the regulations to focus on access to journeys rather than vehicles. This would offer greater inclusivity much quicker than if they relied on every vehicle being accessible.
“Where it’s known that accessibility isn’t required, operators shouldn’t have to provide an accessible vehicle; we believe this is still achievable within the spirit of the Equality Act 2010,” says the RHA.
“It’s clear there’s an appetite to extend the scope of inclusivity for coach services. This would achieve that, and the requirement to take reasonable steps to offer 100 percent accessible journeys should take that into account. We’d recommend it’s phased in over the five years after an upcoming Government PSVAR review,” it adds.
Andy Warrender, RHA Coach Operations Manager said: “PSVAR is well-meaning legislation but it doesn’t achieve what it’s been set out to do. It’s long been recognised that the focus on the vehicle largely ignores other elements to make journeys 100 per cent accessible.
“Ministers will be reviewing the regulations shortly. We urge them to amend the regulations to focus on the journey rather than the vehicle to make coach travel more accessible.
“We’ve worked with our RHA Coach members to devise an industry-led solution to the PSVAR conundrum which has dogged the industry for more than 20 years.”