On January 1st 2016, regulations will be coming into force that compel all single-decker buses in the UK to meet minimum accessibility regulations. The Public Service Vehicle Access Regulations (PSVAR) 2000 demand that all single decker buses have accessibility standards including a wheelchair bay; a wheelchair ramp or other boarding device, and priority seating. After January 1st, it will be a criminal offence under the Equalities Act 2010 for a bus not to comply with these access regulations.
Twenty years the Disability Discrimination Act, and after the brave campaigners of Campaign for Accessible Transport locked themselves to inaccessible Routemasters to campaign for accessible buses; and ten years after the last inaccessible bus rolled off the streets of London, the UK is on its way to an inclusive transport system.
However, double decker buses need not be compliant with PSVAR regulations until January 2017. And disabled people have a long wait until all coaches have to be accessible: there’s no requirement for coaches to comply with PSVAR regulations until 2020.
The PSVAR regulations also set out requirements about:
- Clear signage of the wheelchair bay
- Height of steps
- Visual contrast so that visually impaired people can easily see handrails and steps
- Bells throughout the bus so passengers can request the driver to stop
- A ‘kneeling’ system to lower the floor of the bus
- Non-slip floor and steps
Bus operators beware: any bus companies which are found not to comply with the PSVAR regulations can be fined up to £2,500 and prosecution not just of the company, but also of the person responsible. The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) is the body responsible, and is pursuing operators whom it believes to be flouting the law. The DVSA can also raise the issue with the Traffic Commissioner, who may in extremis rescind the operating licence of the bus company.
Still waiting for Talking Buses
A notable omission is that there is still no requirement for buses to have audio-visual information (Talking Buses); and so PSVAR-compliant buses will still not be fully accessible for visually impaired and hard-of-hearing people. Whilst every bus in London has had audio-visual information since 2005, Guidedogs is calling for this to be mandatory for all new buses. The PSVAR regulations are welcome and a big step forwards to including disabled and older people in society, but it is disappointing that the they stop short of making all buses in the country properly accessible to blind and visually impaired people.
You can view the entire PSVAR legislation here: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2000/1970/contents/made