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November 25, 2010

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Tourism chiefs seek out 'black' coaches

SHANGHAI tourism authorities will carry out secret investigations into how travel companies rent coaches, after two bus crashes involving local tour groups this month left seven people dead.

And any company found to be using "black" - illegal - bus companies faces being shut down.

The Shanghai Tourism Administration has discovered that some bus companies rent scrapped buses from other provinces and hire unqualified drivers.

"Some black bus companies charge a daily rent of 500 yuan (US$75), about half what a legal company would charge," said Dao Shuming, director of the administration.

"These travel agencies are sacrificing the safety of tourists for profit.

"Travel agencies hiring unlicensed drivers and tour guides and renting buses from black companies will be shut down," Dao said.

On November 7, a coach carrying passengers on a Shanghai Xindalu Travel Service Co Ltd trip overturned in Jinshan District, killing four tourists.

Then on Sunday, three tourists on a trip organized by the Shanghai Shanhe Travel Co Ltd died in a bus accident in Tonglu, Zhejiang Province.

Both cases are under investigation.

Officials said if the accidents were caused by involvement with unlicensed companies, officials would be handed over to the police.

Meanwhile, officers have launched safety checks on local hotels to look for fire hazards - and have already uncovered some disturbing findings.

Inspectors found hotels that had no fire extinguishers, where fire exits were blocked, and where hotel staff who had received no fire training.

These establishments have been ordered to improve their fire control systems.

Inspections will continue.


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