02 JUL 2018
Thank you very much for taking the time to email me.
I read your comments with interest and I realise how important community transport is in a rural area such as this one I understand how much of an impact changes could have.
I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Transport is of interest:
The Department of Transport's letter of 31 July was a clarification of the principles to have regard to when permits are granted under existing legislation. Namely, that groups which continue to use permits must either be those which are not primarily transport providers or those which operate exclusively on a non-commercial basis.
Prior to this clarification, two transport operators, one a community transport group using a permit and the other a commercial operator, could be subject to very different treatments in law. Despite similarities between the two operators, the community transport group vehicles would be subject to less stringent MOT tests and could be driven by less qualified drivers.
This disparity has become the subject of potential legal action and hence the clarification of the law surrounding permits. The Department for Transport is seeking to help any affected operators to be compliant, in particular by taking a pragmatic approach to enforcement as the sector adjusts to the clarification. However, the Parliamentary under Secretary of State, Jesse Norman, has assured me that many local community transport operators should not be affected by the Department's clarification. Indeed, he believes that it is likely to affect larger operators in what may in effect be commercial operations.
Looking forward, the Department for Transport are consulting on detailed changes to guidance, so that operators and the general public have the opportunity to air concerns and share ideas. However, there is no intention to replace the entire present permits system, which is generally working well. Ministers are keen to ensure the continued success of the non-commercial community transport sector, and the continued safety of passengers, whilst allowing the road passenger transport sector to compete on a fair basis for commercial contracts.
The Government has a proud record in supporting community transport operators, including through launching the £25 million Community Minibus Fund (CMF) in 2014 where over 400 vehicles have already been delivered to local charity and community groups.
I would like to reassure you that I have already made direct representations to the Transport Minister, Chris Grayling about the integral role that community transport play in rural communities
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