HL Deb 02 February 2005 vol 669 cc50-2WA
Lord Skelmersdale

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many of the 63 rail vehicle accessibility exemption orders listed on the Department for Transport's website apply to heritage railways. [HL992]

Lord Davies of Oldham

Six exemption orders made under Section 47 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 apply to heritage railways and tramways. These grant exemptions to vehicles regulated by the Rail Vehicle Accessibility Regulations (RVAR) and are operated by the Bristol Harbour Railway, Ffestiniog Railway Company, Furness Railway Trust, Isle of Wight Railway, Middleton Railway Trust and the Summerlee Heritage Park. A further three exemption orders apply to tourist railways. These are the Cairngorm Funicular Railway, East Hayling Light Railway, and Seaton Tramway.

The RVAR are aimed primarily at rail vehicles that are used in a public transport role. However, some vehicles operated by heritage and tourist railways and tramways have been subject to the RVAR when old vehicles have been converted to such an extent that they have been categorised as "new" vehicles for the purposes of the regulations or, as with Ffestiniog Railway and Seaton Tramway, entirely new vehicles have been constructed.

By their very nature, vehicles on heritage and tourist railways cannot meet many of the measures within the RVAR. However, officials from the Department for Transport work closely with the operators to ensure that accessibility is designed in wherever possible. Indeed, all these vehicles have some access features, even if they do not achieve full compliance with the RVAR—hence the need for these exemption orders.

Exemption orders for vehicles operated on heritage and tourist railways are usually granted for the lifetime of that vehicle. This policy is supported by the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee, the department's statutory advisers on disability issues, which must be consulted on every exemption application.

The Government are taking powers in the Disability Discrimination Bill to enable them to exempt heritage and tourist railway systems from the RVAR. We intend to consult on detailed proposals, including a list of railways and tramways to be exempted, during the passage of the Bill. Even where heritage and tourist railways are granted an exemption, we expect that these will be made subject to conditions to assist disabled people.

Lord Skelmersdale

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many rail vehicles have ceased to be covered by the Disability Discrimination Act rail vehicle accessibility exemption orders; and for how long such orders were in place. [HL993]

Lord Davies of Oldham

Some 100 rail vehicles have entirely ceased to be covered by exemption orders made under Section 47 of the Disability Discrimination Act. As shown in the table below, the exemptions granted to these vehicles lasted a maximum of 13 months.

Operator and class Number vehicles granted exemptions Number of exemptions granted Expired so far How long were periods of exemption
South Central 375/3 84 1 1 11 months
South West Trains 170/3 16 2 2 1 to 13 months

Exemption orders may contain exemptions from more than one of the requirements of the Rail Vehicle Accessibility Regulations 1998 and these individual exemptions may be for different time periods.

A further 1,247 rail vehicles are subject to exemption orders in which some 51 exemptions have expired. These orders still have other exemptions outstanding.The table below lists those operators who have been granted exemption orders that contain an exemption that has now expired. As the table demonstrates, the length of time for which each of the expired exemptions was granted is between three months and five years.

Operator and class Number of venichles granted exemptions Number of exemptions granted Exemptions expired so far Time periods for expired exemptions
One Anglia 170/2 24 4 2 6 to 18 months
Central 170/5 and 170/6 76 5 3 1 half to 2 half years
Chiltern 168/1 19 4 2 6 months to 1 year
South Eastern 375 210 6 3 4 to 13 months
Croydon Tramlink 24 10 6 5 to 11 months
Gatwick Express 460 64 17 4 9 to 21 months
c2c 357 184 8 4 1 to 1 half years
Midland Metro 16 12 10 4 months—21 quarter years
Arriva/Serco 175/0 and 175/1 70 6 5 9 months
ScotRail 170/4 72 4 3 3 months to 4 years
ScotRail 334 120 4 1 10 months
Serco Metrolink 6 2 1 13 half months
South West Trains 458 120 14 6 15 months to 5 years
Virgin 390 242 3 1 5 months
Total 1,247 99 51