Vietnam limits sleeper bus routes following tragedies

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The roof of the bus involved in an accident in Lao Cai Province on September 1 that killed 12 people. Photo: Ha An The roof of the bus involved in an accident in Lao Cai Province on September 1 that killed 12 people. Photo: Ha An

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The Transport Ministry has issued a circular that bans the operation of passenger sleeper buses on narrow mountainous roads starting in July of 2015.
According to the document, transport companies are not allowed to run sleeper buses on roads classified as 5th and 6th grades for safety reasons.
These roads have a single lane that is 3.5 meters wide with designed for speeds of no more than 30 kph (18.6 mph) in 5th grade and 20 kph in 6th grade.
The circular also requires transport companies to employ sleeper bus drivers with at least three years experience in driving large passenger buses (30 seats and over).
Meanwhile, buses for private hire have to inform transport authorities about their planned route, schedule and number of passengers by email prior to the trip.
The new regulations aim to tighten the management of buses following a series of tragic accidents.
According to Nguyen Hoang Hiep, deputy chairman of the National Traffic Safety Committee, 90 percent of bus accidents last year involved sleeper buses.
In a recent accident, a sleeper bus flew into a gorge during an unapproved overnight trip back from Sa Pa in Vietnam’s northern highlands on September 1, killing 12 people, including two pregnant women.
The Sao Viet Company was later found to have sent the bus to Sa Pa illegally. It was only licensed to travel between My Dinh Bus Station in Hanoi and Lao Cai Province’s namesake capitol.
The bus tried to avoid a car traveling in the opposite direction and plunged into a 200 meter gorge on its way back from Sapa, a popular tourist destination 38 kilometers from Lao Cai.
Last month, a Lao Cai court sentenced 38-year-old bus driver Vu Huu Hoa to nine years in prison for causing a last year's accident that killed eight people and injured 29.
The driver for the Nguyen Thanh Phat Transport Company in Hai Phong was taking 46 tourists from the port city to the Bao Ha Temple in Lao Cai Province on October 25, 2013, and driving on a highway that had been closed for construction.
Traffic accidents have killed more than 6,800 Vietnamese so far this year, or 25 people every day.

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