• Kyodo

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Responding to a fatal ski bus crash in Nagano Prefecture last winter, the government said Tuesday it wants to make charter bus companies renew their business license every five years.

Other change in the road transportation law sought by the government would raise the maximum fine for firms that fail to take proper safety measures to ¥100 million, up from ¥1 million now, while individual violators would face the possibility of prison.

Charter bus firms currently do not have to renew their operating license.

Transport minister Keiichi Ishii told reporters the government will try to have the revisions enacted during the current Diet session, in time for the upcoming ski season.

Since many charter bus operators are small and medium-size companies, fines have been limited to no more than ¥1 million.

The proposed higher limit, the same as that imposed on rail companies and airlines, follows calls from families of the ski bus crash victims and others for stricter penalties.

The punishment for individuals in management positions would be stiffened to up to one year in prison and a fine of up to ¥1.5 million. Currently, the maximum penalty is a fine of ¥1 million.

If their license is revoked, operators would not be able to return to the business for at least five years. The suspension period is currently two years.

A private entity to inspect and provide instructions to bus companies would be established under the revised law as well. Its operating costs would be shouldered by bus operators.

In January, the bus operated by Tokyo-based ESP and chartered by travel firm Keyth Tour careened off a road in Nagano Prefecture, killing 13 university students and two crew, including the driver, and injuring 26 others.

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