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June 13, 2012

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'Sleeping berth' buses to be replaced for safety

SAFETY concerns are causing traffic and police authorities to plan to phase out coach buses with sleeping berths in the next five years.

They are to be replaced by buses with only seats, said officials.

Zhang Yongbin, head of the Shanghai Long-Distance Bus Station, said yesterday the station hasn't added new sleeping-berth buses since March.

"The buses are too high to safely operate in an emergency and it's easier for them to be overloaded," said Zhang.

The buses are usually above 3.8 meters in height.

In July, 41 passengers were killed and another six were injured in a two-floor sleeping coach that caught fire in central China's Henan Province.

The Shanghai station, the city's main hub for inter-province traffic, has about 80 routes using such buses, numbered at 200 vehicles, said Zhang. Around the country there are more than 30,000 such vehicles.

The routes are mainly operated by out-of-town owners, added Zhang. The longest journey, from Shanghai to Chengdu, takes more than 20 hours.

Police have stopped issuing registrations for such buses, which also are being removed from production lines.

The vehicles in service now will be retired gradually, within five or six years.

Industry insiders say the new buses are likely to be high-end models with more facilities, such as better reclining seats and toilets. Passengers wonder if the new buses will be comfortable for long journeys and affordable.


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