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Shaanxi bans 'red-eye' bus after tragedy

By Liu Linlin (Global Times)

07:54, August 28, 2012

The governor of Shaanxi Province, where a recent sleeper bus accident killed 36, announced on Monday that night-time bus operations will be forbidden in the province as of next week in order to prevent similar tragedies from happening again.

Governor Zhao Zhengyong made the announcement at a provincial government meeting. When he inspected the accident scene the previous day in Yan'an, he demanded local authorities formulate a plan to cancel "red-eye buses" and force long-distance drivers to stop driving after 2 am, the People's Daily Online reported.

Only three out of the 39 people on the double-decker sleeper bus en route from Hohhot, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region to Xi'an, Shaanxi survived after the bus crashed into a methanol-loaded tanker at around 2 am on Sunday, causing the site to burst into flames after methanol leaked.

The so-called red-eye long distance buses that allow passengers to sleep during the overnight trip are deemed unsafe when accidents occur, as the design of double-deck bunkers in the bus leave limited space for passengers to escape.

There have been six accidents involving double-decker buses in the past 17 months, with 140 killed, according to the Oriental Morning Post.

The Ministry of Transport in July last year ordered special inspection measures for sleeper buses, including installing video surveillance and adopting a break between 2 am and 5 am, according to the China News Service.

The manufacture and registration of sleeper buses were banned in China on March 1. The existing sleeper buses are allowed to operate, but are expected to be phased out in about five years, China News Service reported.

Zhang Zhuting, who helped draft the Law on Road Traffic Safety, said that the frequency of deadly sleeper bus accidents was due to the lack of law enforcement from governments and lack of safety awareness from the drivers and companies running buses.

Families of victims in the Yan'an bus accident have been contacting or coming to the city to identify the victims, which has proved a difficult task as the fire destroyed almost everything, an official told the Global Times Monday.

The investigation group sent by the State Council told the press on Monday that two of the survivors are still in critical condition, and the group has formed an initial plan of compensation for the 36 deceased passengers, which is expected to be settled within a week.

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