• Kyodo


The transport ministry has found that the operator of the chartered ski-tour bus that crashed in Nagano Prefecture late last week was running the tour without providing its drivers with the required instruction paperwork, officials said Monday.

Conducting the tour without the paperwork required by the ministry is a violation of the Road Transportation Law.

Tokyo-based ESP provided its drivers with an instruction paper together with a basic itinerary given by Keyth Tour, the travel company that organized the tour.

However, the ministry judged the document and the itinerary did not meet the standards required by the law, saying they were insufficient to ensure proper and safe bus operations.

Travel companies are required to create and give drivers a detailed itinerary, including instructions such as places of departure and arrival, the route to be taken, break times and areas of caution.

A special inspection by the ministry showed that the instruction paper presented by ESP only specified the points of departure and arrival.

“We thought that there would be no problem if we simply attached the itinerary,” an ESP official said.

The itinerary provided was essentially a document created by a travel agency for its customers in line with the Travel Agency Act. Because it did not include information such as the locations where one driver relieves the other, the ministry did not approve it as a replacement for an instruction paper.

The ministry is now investigating what appears to be routine violation of regulations by ESP and looking into additional inspections.

In the accident early Friday, 14 people — the two drivers and 12 university students — were killed when the bus carrying passengers from Tokyo to a ski resort veered off a mountain road in the resort town of Karuizawa and rolled over.

In the probe conducted by the ministry through Sunday following the deadly crash, the ministry found that other tours were also operated by ESP without the necessary instruction papers.

Meanwhile, the ministry corrected late Sunday an earlier statement that the bus operator falsely reported to the ministry last year that it had conducted health checks on its bus drivers, and that one of the two drivers on the bus may have been among them.

The ministry said that in its special inspection following the crash, it found documents showing that ESP did conduct the health checks.

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