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Bus safety takes high priority

SHANGHAI is leaving no stone unturned to enhance passenger safety in the wake of last month's deadly bus blaze in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province.

The city's transport authority is rolling out a package of new measures, including refitting buses with an escape window that can easily open, the city's transport authorities said yesterday.

A record 3.8 billion yuan (US$556 million) will be spent in advancing the quality of transit buses.

The Chengdu bus did not have emergency hammers on board and many victims who died in the fire could not break windows to escape.

The authority has already ordered each bus operator to equip its crew members with extra emergency hammers and yesterday began to give special training to bus staff to make them skilled in using tools in response to fire emergencies as well in arranging orderly passenger escapes.

Sun Jianping, director of the Shanghai Communications, Transport and Port Bureau, said yesterday that tests were being carried out on three new buses that had been refitted with a special escape window. "The buses have the window installed in different positions and we are working out the most helpful design and may introduce it to more local transit buses," Sun said.

The large window can open quickly and is obviously a more efficient safety measure than hammers.

Shanghai also made it mandatory that all new buses must be equipped with surveillance videos before being allowed in service after the June 5 bus fire that killed 27 people and injured 74 others.

Sun also said they had been alerted of rush-hour congestion on some downtown routes and were planning to beef up the service in the interests of safety. This may lead to a return of bus attendants, long a thing of the past.

The bureau yesterday completed a two-week investigation into safety conditions on city buses based on random checks. Seven bus operators were fined and ordered to rectify flawed safety equipment.

Investigators boarded 1,524 buses and found safety tools and the doors were generally in good condition.

Last month, the city's 16,000-odd transit buses handled a daily turnover of 14.11 million passengers, which translates into 53 percent of the total passenger flow by public transport.

Sun said the government would subsidize bus companies to buy new and more eco-friendly vehicles as well as making up for their losses from getting rid of older buses.


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