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The Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry plans to create a system to subsidize truck and bus company operators in Japan’s three major urban areas to change their vehicles to low-emissions ones, ministry sources said Saturday.

The ministry is eyeing some 3 billion yen in budgetary requests for the system for fiscal 2002, which starts next April, they said.

The system would involve the central and local governments in the Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya areas. They would equally subsidize local firms using buses and trucks for the cost differential between diesel-powered trucks or buses and those based on environmentally friendly compressed natural gas if the operators choose to adopt the latter.

The ministry wants to urge operators to replace trucks and buses with CNG ones to cut nitrogen oxide emissions, which cause atmospheric pollution and particulate matter, a suspected carcinogen found in black smoke emitted by diesel vehicles.

With the subsidies, the operators would be able to purchase CNG vehicles at more or less the same prices as those of diesel vehicles, the sources said.

At present, the average price differential between diesel vehicles and CNG ones is 1.2 million yen for a truck and roughly 14 million yen for a bus, which is hindering the spread of CNG use, they said.

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