National

Tokyo bringing in step-free buses ahead of Olympics

Kyodo

Buses with fewer steps leading to their rear seats will start operating in Tokyo later this year as the capital gears up for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Tokyo already had 1,464 buses with a step-free entrance as of April last year, but passengers need to go up steps inside the bus to get to seats in the rear area, which is elevated to accommodate the transmission and other equipment.

The metropolitan government will introduce 29 new flat-floor buses designed specifically for the Japanese market by the Japan arm of Swedish commercial vehicle maker Scania.

“We want to make flat-floor buses the standard type in the future,” a Tokyo official said.

The newly developed buses are priced at around ¥35 million each, about 1½ times more expensive than those now in use, but the metropolitan government deemed it a necessary cost to prepare for the 2020 Games and to pay for it earmarked a total of about ¥1 billion in fiscal 2017 and 2018.

Elderly people have fallen from the steps during sudden stops, while passengers of all ages tend to avoid them and gather in the front area, causing overcrowding there.

In 2015, 490 accidents occurred aboard city buses nationwide, leaving 540 people injured, according to the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry.

The new flat-floor buses can accommodate up to 70 passengers, the same capacity as the buses currently in use. The new ones are expected to start operating this fall on busy routes and in areas with high numbers of elderly passengers, the metropolitan government said.