Tory 'U-turn' over support for seat-belts on coaches

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THE Government is backtracking on its support for the compulsory fitting of seat-belts in coaches despite the two motorway coach disasters which killed 23 people last month, writes Christian Wolmar.

At a meeting today in Brussels, Department of Transport officials have been instructed to abstain if there is a vote on the issue, despite the United Kingdom's longstanding support for compulsory belts on coaches and minibuses. The U-turn is confirmed in a letter from Robert Key, the Minister for Roads, to the Consumers' Association in response to the organisation's concern about the two coach crashes.

He wrote: 'We are currently reviewing the full technical and cost implications of seat belts (in coaches and minibuses) and feel it would be unwise to rush into new legislation until we have considered the full reports of the recent tragic accidents.' However, after last month's M2 crash, he emphasised he would be pressing for the European Union to introduce mandatory seat-belts on coaches, saying 'it must be true that seat belts of any kind would be better than none'.

Coach operators have been lobbying against mandatory seat-belts, saying more research is needed. But Derek Prentice, the CA's assistant director, says the research has been done and legislation is nearly ready.