ORR launches consultation to revise Accessible Travel Policy Guidance on rail replacement services

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The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has today opened a consultation to revise its Accessible Travel Policy (ATP) Guidance to improve the availability of accessible vehicles for use by disabled passengers during rail disruption, and to ensure passengers know where accessible buses and coaches will be operated.

From 1 January 2020, one of the exemptions in the Public Service Vehicle Accessibility Regulations (PSVAR) in relation to coaches comes to an end. This reflects the importance of ensuring that disabled people, and in particular wheelchair users, are able to access the same local and scheduled bus and coach services as persons who do not have a disability or persons whose disability gives rise to different needs.

The vast majority of buses used for rail replacement are accessible (e.g. low floors and/or ramps for wheelchair users), however it is concerning that the opposite is true of coaches (where a wheelchair lift is required).

Enforcement of these regulations is the responsibility of the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA). We expect all train operators to take appropriate steps to comply with PSVAR, but we do not intend to duplicate the role of DVSA and, because of the limited supply of accessible coaches, run the risk of rail replacement services being withdrawn by mandating compliance through ORR’s separate regulatory framework.

Curtailing rail replacement services until more coaches are fully accessible would significantly reduce the ability for all passengers - including disabled passengers without mobility impairments - to travel during rail disruption, and heightens the risk of crowding and safety issues at stations.

Our overall objective is to ensure that all passengers can request and receive assistance to travel safely with confidence and ease. To ensure that this happens, we are seeking views on additional requirements in key areas:

  • Mandatory tendering for accessible buses and coaches in rail replacement contracts, to incentivise investment in the supply chain and increase the availability of accessible vehicles
  • Encouraging earlier procurement and greater use of accessible vehicles at times of planned disruption
  • Proactive provision of information to passengers on the accessibility of rail replacement services, and any available alternatives that may be more appropriate
  • Working with industry partners to improve the provision of accessible coaches during large-scale engineering works

ORR is seeking comments on these proposals by 14th February 2020.

Notes to editors
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  1. This consultation follows initial legal advice commissioned by ORR in September, which concluded that the regulations that ensure buses, and in certain circumstances coaches, are accessible to disabled people apply equally to rail replacement services.
     
  2. The 1 January 2020 PSVAR deadline applies for coach operators unless they apply for and are granted a one-month exemption from DfT
     
  3. Link to re-consultation.
     
  4. Link to July ATP guidance.