The wooden buses operating on Samoa’s public roads are dangerous and they should be phased out.
That’s what the Land Transport Authority Chief Executive Officer, Leasi John Galuvao, said in response to questions from the Samoa Observer
It follows the horrific bus crash at Faleula last weekend, which claimed three lives instantly. As reported earlier a total of 46 passengers were on the bus including the three people who died. One of them was the driver.
Speaking to the Samoa Observer, Leasi said the idea of phasing our wooden buses is not new.
“Back in the year 2000 the government moved to phase out the wooden buses. Even before that I was told the government in previous years wanted to phase out the wooden buses,” he said.
“At the same time, the age of the buses increased from eight to 12 years in order to be registered as a commercial transport.
“At the time, those ready-made buses that were brought in were 12 years old as those were the only buses the bus owners could afford. And most of these buses were run down.”
Bus owners at the time also appealed to the government to give them a chance to prove that the wooden buses, also known as the aiga buses, were safe.
“They proposed that they would change the wooden frame to a metal frame to strengthen the foundation of the bus.
“There was also that mindset the aiga buses are one of Samoa’s iconic transportation meaning this attracts tourists.
“That’s when the government opted to change its policy and allowed the bus owners to continue with the wooden buses, but with strict conditions.”
But crashes such as the one last week have revived the idea of phasing them out completely.
Leasi said he agrees with the concerns.
He said the flat deck trucks that are converted into wooden buses were never meant to be buses.
“That is because the flat decks are high, the center of gravity is high and the bus can easily flip over,” he said.
“If you look at ready-made buses, from overseas, they are low, given that the bulk of the weight can be carried with the low foundation of the bus.
“The higher the center of gravity is the high chances that anything can tilt the bus over.”
The C.E.O. said L.T.A. in 2015 issued a directive to all the bus owners that for any new bus, the L.T.A. will have to give their approval and that the bus will be constructed from truck component.
“The L.T.A. officer must carry out inspection of the construction of the new bus,” said Leasi.
He said with the traffic crashes involving buses, the L.T.A. will recommend for the government to give the bus owners a year or two to get their act together.
“Right now the policy is there where the new buses are required to have row bar frames, which will actually strengthen the bus.”
Suggestions to put in place speed bumps will not be entertained, said Leasi.
“If you think back to the switch of the roads (in 2000), there were numerous speed bumps and the motorists were complaining and when the time came that led to the removal of the bumps, the residents in the area requested not to remove it.
“These people saw the need to put these speed bumps in place, but that will not happen again.
“We will not put the speed bumps in this area, the speeding is actually the discretion of the driver.”