Discount Bus Company Fung Wah Suspended After Failing Safety Inspections

Forget about a cheap ticket to New York City – the Boston-based Fung Wah bus company has been ordered off the road by federal officials.

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Passengers line up to board a Fung Wah bus headed for Boston on August 4, 2008 in New York City.

Forget about a cheap ticket to New York City – the Boston-based Fung Wah bus company has been ordered off the road by federal officials.

After failing safety inspections by state and federal officials, the discount bus line — a pioneer in the market for cheap “Chinatown Buses” that ply the highways between the major cities of the Northeast — has been told to stay  off the road by the government. Fung Wah operates primarily between Boston and New York City and is known for tickets as low as $15 for the four-hour trip.

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On Monday, state inspectors labeled the bus company an “imminent hazard” and instructed it to take 21 out of its 28 vehicles off the road. And as of yesterday, federal officials from the Transportation Department ordered Fung Wah to halt all service. According to CBS Boston:

On one bus, inspectors found multiple oil leaks from different parts of the engine, and nuts and bolts that weren’t secure.

There were also faulty lights, a door with a broken latch and the lack of proper registration on the charter bus hired by Fung Wah…

During one visit, [officials] were inspecting the buses for hours and five were in such disrepair they had to be towed.

“We’re talking about a major public safety concern,” Ann Berwick , chair of the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities, told CBS. “We’re not talking about trivial matters here; we’re talking about serious structural deficiencies in these buses that could cause a serious accident.”

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The company’s safety record is spotty at best; a fire erupted on board a Fung Wah bus during one journey in 2005 and another bus was involved in a rollover accident in 2006, injuring 34 people and resulting in a $31,000 fine.

That, however, has not deterred passengers looking for a cheap ticket between East Coast cities; some customers were still lining up to buy tickets even after the company was asked to cease and desist. “If it’s your time, it’s your time,” Rosemary Donkor, a passenger who was headed to Boston, told the New York Times outside the Fung Wah ticket office in lower Manhattan. “I believe that God looks after us all.”

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