Select Committee on European Scrutiny Fourth Report


BODYWORK OF BUSES


(22404)
8551/01
COM(01) 217

Commission opinion on the European Parliament's amendments to the Council's common position on the draft Directive relating to special provisions for vehicles used for the carriage of passengers comprising more than eight seats in addition to the driver's seat and amending Directives 70/156 and 97/27/EC.


Legal base: Articles 95 and 251(c) EC; co-decision; qualified majority voting
Document originated: 20 April 2001
Forwarded to the Council: 23 April 2001
Deposited in Parliament: 20 June 2001
Department: Transport, Local Government and the Regions
Basis of consideration: EM of 2 July 2001
Previous Committee Report: None; but see (18413) 9734/97: HC 155-xii (1997-98), paragraph 12 (14 January 1998)
To be discussed in Council: Already discussed — see below
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Cleared, but further information requested

Background

13.1  This document is the Commission's opinion on the Parliament's amendments to the Council's common position on the draft Directive on the bodywork of buses. The aim of the proposed Directive is to harmonise construction standards for the interior and bodywork design of buses (defined as vehicles with more than eight passenger seats) and coaches, to introduce minimum safety and accessibility standards and to facilitate trade between Member States.

13.2  The previous Committee first considered the draft Directive in December 1997 when it considered the Directive to be politically important but did not clear it due to concerns about the optional nature of aspects of the Directive. The previous Committee cleared the Directive at its meeting on 14 January 1998 in the light of further information provided by the then Minister for Roads in the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions. The Minister sought to keep the previous Committee updated on the progress of the Directive in a letter of 11 April 2000 which confirmed that concerns peculiar to the UK and Ireland had been resolved during negotiations. The same letter advised the previous Committee that a working text of the document (a copy of which was attached to the letter of 11 April) would be put before the Council for the adoption of a common position. The Council subsequently adopted a common position on the Directive in September 2001. In its consideration of the draft Directive, the European Parliament proposed several amendments to the Directive at its second reading on 14 February 2001.

The document

13.3  The Parliament proposed eight amendments to the Directive, all of which centre on concerns relating to access and mobility requirements for persons with reduced mobility.

13.4  Amendment 1 inserts a new recital to take account of the progress achieved in the accessibility of Class I and II type vehicles for persons with reduced mobility by permitting existing vehicles of this type to have a steeper slope in certain parts of the gangway than is allowed for new vehicles.

13.5  Amendment 2, 3 and 5 relate to the permitted slope of the gangway over the axles of buses.

13.6  Amendment 4 defines the class of persons with reduced mobility as all persons who have difficulties in using public transport, such as, for example, the disabled (including those suffering from sensorial and mental disabilities and wheelchair users), persons with disabilities affecting their arms and/or legs, small persons, persons carrying heavy luggage, the elderly, pregnant women, persons with shopping trolleys and persons with small children.

13.7  Amendment 7 requires the slope of any gangway, access passage or floor area between any priority seat or wheelchair space and one entrance and one exit or a combined entrance and exit to be fitted with a non-slip surface.

13.8  Amendment 8 requires that wheelchair access doors shall be fitted with a boarding aid which must include a kneeling system combined with the lift provisions or ramp provisions in annex 3.11.3 or 3.11.4, unless the design of the local infrastructure ensures the safe boarding of all persons with reduced mobility, including wheelchair users.

13.9  The Commission's view is that three of the amendments (1, 7 and 8) are acceptable as they stand and five are acceptable in principle. In relation to amendments 2, 3 and 5 concerning the slope of gangways, the Commission suggests that a transitional period of approximately five years would be necessary. As concerns amendment 4, the Commission emphasises the importance of the definition in the common position being strictly identical to that used internationally, in particular by the United Nations' Economic Commission for Europe.

The Government's view

13.10  In his Explanatory Memorandum of 2 July 2001, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions (Mr David Jamieson) says

    "The requirements of the Directive to which these proposed amendments refer will be optional and may be used as an alternative to those of existing UK legislation.

    "Many of the items included in the proposed Directive are already regulated for in UK domestic legislation. The amendments to which this EM refers are beneficial as they will align the requirements of the proposed Directive nearer to the current domestic accessibility requirements. There will also be benefits to industry from common EU standards in this area."

Conclusion

13.11  We welcome the indication that user groups and public bodies, as well as manufacturers, have been closely consulted in reaching the common position. We look forward to being kept informed of the outcome of the conciliation committee, especially on amendment 4 concerning the definition of passengers with reduced mobility, and on this basis we are content to clear the document.



 
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