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The Transport Ministry and the Construction Ministry will submit a bill to the Diet next month which will encourage the implementation of “barrier-free” transportation systems by transport firms and local governments, Transport Minister Toshihiro Nikai said Tuesday. The outline of the bill states that railway companies, bus operators, ferry operators and airlines must equip future stations, terminals and carriages with barrier-free devices such as elevators, escalators and seats as well as other facilities to assist passengers in wheelchairs. However, the firms would not be obligated to change existing facilities since the bill calls solely for “efforts” in these cases. The legislation would not carry a penalty. The bill also outlines a process for local governments who want to make barrier-free renovations to public spaces. The process includes drawing up basic plans for areas around traffic facilities with over 5,000 daily users, and areas frequented by elderly or disabled people. Local governments would cooperate with local carriers in implementing the plans, according to the outline. Examples of renovation projects include leveling sidewalks and areas in front of stations and setting up ticket vending machines which are easy for elderly and disabled people to use. The Transport Ministry hopes to have the Diet enact the bill during the current session for implementation by the end of the year, ministry officials said.

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