Deregulation of charter bus services
A decline in group travelers has intensified competition in the charter bus industry. Effectively acknowledging the situation, the government decided to relax the supply-demand adjustment regulation and regulations on charter fees. More specifically, the supply-demand adjustment regulation will be abolished in FY1999, after establishing regulations for safety and consumer protection. At the same time, the approval requirement for fare changes will be eased, allowing service operators to simply report such changes. Ahead of these deregulation measures, since FY 1997 the government has relaxed regulations on discount fares, eased the supply-demand adjustment standard in areas with high rate of charter bus operation, expanded operation territories from municipality-wide to prefecture-wide, and lowered minimum number of vehicle requirements.
Moves toward activating regional bus services
The number of regional bus users continues to decline since peaking in the 1970s, due to the use of private cars, worsening traffic congestion, and heightened public awareness of health issues. In a bid to sever the vicious cycle of user decline leading to cuts in service frequency / routes, and to promote bus services friendly to both users and the environment, bus operators and government authorities are working toward activating bus services. Bus companies are issuing pre-paid cards, introducing low-pollution / no-step buses, and installing bus location systems. Governmental authorities are setting up Bus Service Activating Committees in each prefecture, establishing Bus Service Activating Contact Groups between related government offices, improving the bus operation environment, and promoting the concept of the Omnibus Town. The Ministry of Transport has set up a system for subsidizing comprehensive measures to activate bus services in support of businesses participating in the regeneration efforts.