Transport agency to probe discount bus safety

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The National Transportation Safety Board will conduct a review of the safety system governing the discount tour bus industry in the wake of last month’s deadly Bronx bus crash that killed 15 passengers, authorities announced on Sunday.

New York Senator Charles Schumer and Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez compared the bus review, expected to take six months, to one that resulted in mandatory airline safety changes after the 2009 crash of a commuter plane in Buffalo killed all 49 passengers and crew aboard.

“A broad-based investigation into the discount tour bus industry will send a wake-up call that the status quo is simply not acceptable,” said Schumer, who with Velazquez requested the review after the March 12 fatal crash of a bus returning to Chinatown from a Connecticut casino.

“These passengers did not have to die in vain. (The NTSB review) will no doubt lead to greater safety standards for the thousands of passengers who use these buses every week,” the Democratic senator said in a statement.

Just days after the New York crash, another Chinatown bus crashed on the New Jersey Turnpike en route to Philadelphia, killing the driver and a passenger.

A week later, a tour bus carrying Korean tourists from Quebec to Boston crashed in New Hampshire, injuring passengers. No one was killed.

“The recent tragic accidents have underscored the need to improve motor coach safety, especially among discount carriers,” the Democratic congresswoman said in a statement.

The NTSB has committed to reviewing both regulatory and operational practices in the discount tour bus industry and will take a critical look at the effectiveness of the current safety watchdog, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Schumer said.

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Greg McCune and Eric Walsh)

Transport agency to probe discount bus safety