Norfolk MP presses government to end ‘dangerous’ uncertainty for community transport provider regulations
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
Vital community transport services in rural parts of Norfolk could be put under threat if providers have to apply for expensive operator licences.
North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb wants clarification on whether services across the country will now have to apply for the licences, the cost of which could see their businesses go under.
Previously, non-commercial community transport providers such as North Norfolk Community Transport haven't needed to hold a PSV (Public Service Vehicle) operator's licence.
These organisations, which provide vital transport services for many villages and are particularly important for elderly and disabled people, have now been told they may need to apply for a licence. It comes after the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency found that one such service hadn't complied with legal operating requirements.
The Department for Transport has not announced which companies the new requirement applies to or when a proposed consultation will begin.
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As a result, community transport providers face significant uncertainty as to whether – and when – they will be expected to comply with the new regulations. There are also concerns about the cost of training drivers up to the new standards, which could see some organisations become nonviable.
In Parliament on Thursday, October 19 Mr Lamb asked the government what the timescale for a consultation would be, and when the changes will come in to effect.
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Mr Lamb said afterwards: 'Uncertainty hangs over many community transport providers. This is really dangerous. I pressed for a timetable for the proposed consultation and for when new requirements might apply, but the government failed to provide one.'
Mr Lamb now plans write to the Secretary of State for Transport to demand clarification on when the proposed consultation will take place.
North Norfolk Community Transport chief executive Claire Abbs said: 'Potentially, some of the contracts we run at the moment, particularly around school transport, would need a new licence. We currently get away with section 19 permits.
'We would also have to retrain staff, so it could have a significant impact. At the moment we cannot plan for it, which creates the uncertainty.'