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HOME  > Past issues  > 2007 March 7 - 13  > Deregulations force unsafe operations in chartered bus industry: JCP Kobayashi
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2007 March 7 - 13 [POLITICS]

Deregulations force unsafe operations in chartered bus industry: JCP Kobayashi

March 9, 2007
At a House of Councilors Budget Committee meeting on March 8, Japanese Communist Party representative Kobayashi Mieko revealed that in the deregulated chartered bus industry drivers are forced to work long hours, and that bus companies are forced to contract with travel agencies at illegally low fares at the cost of the safety.

Citing a company which requires its drivers to be on 39-hour duty three times a week, she said, “Drivers are totally exhausted; 70 percent of them said they have fallen asleep at the wheel,” adding, “It won’t be surprising if an accident happens.”

Kobayashi pointed out that in the background of this is a fierce fare-cutting competition, and referred to the case of major chartered bus company CRYSTAL Kanko.

For example, in a ski bus tour organized by a travel agency, the minimum legal fare is 290,000 yen, but CRYSTAL Kanko offers it at 190,000 yen. This company adopts a contract-driver system in which drivers work on commission, leading them to work long hours in order to increase their incomes.

Kobayashi said that as a result of the deregulations in the chartered bus industry implemented in 2000, the number of bus companies has rapidly increased, their revenues have drastically fallen, and the number of accidents has increased.

She argued, “The government should conduct surveys on changes in fares and work hours since the deregulations were implemented, correct illegal practices, and review the deregulations that have brought about the fierce competition.”

Land, Infrastructure, and Transportation Minister Fuyushiba Tetsuzo promised to conduct a nationwide fact-finding survey.

Kobayashi also pointed out that in the face of the harsh competition for cheap package tours, travel agencies are pressing bus companies to make fares even cheaper, further threatening passenger safety.

She said, “Accidents are inevitable if prevention measures are left in the hands of bus companies, travel agencies, and the market mechanism. The government must give top priority to safety, take every possible measure to prevent accidents, review the deregulations, and impose restrictions if needed.”
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