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Page last updated at 09:39 GMT, Thursday, 10 September 2009 10:39 UK

Samoans stranded in road switch

File image of a bus outside a hotel in Samoa
Bus owners are angry they will have to convert their vehicles

Samoans reliant on bus travel have been stranded by the country's switch earlier this week to driving on the left of the road instead of the right.

All but about 18 of the Pacific island nation's buses are banned from driving because their doors now open onto the middle of the road.

Bus operators want state aid to modify their vehicles, but talks with the prime minister have so far failed.

Samoa is the first country to make such a change since the 1970s.

Reports from Samoa said there had been no accidents since the switch on Monday, despite widespread predictions of road mayhem from opponents.

Before the switchover, bus drivers had been reluctant to go to the expense of converting their vehicles.

Traffic in Samoa's capital, Apia, driving on the left - 7 September 2009

"A few of the bus owners did not believe that we would proceed [with the change]," Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi said after meeting a group of them on Wednesday.

He said was considering a request to grant them an extension of three to six months, so they could continue driving while completing the necessary modifications.

He said he would give an answer to their request on Thursday.

The Samoan government introduced the change to end its reliance on expensive, left-hand-drive imports from America.

It hopes that the large Samoan expatriate communities in Australia and New Zealand will now ship used, more affordable vehicles back to their homeland.

The change will also allow imports of used cars from Japan and Singapore.



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SEE ALSO
Samoa switches to driving on left
08 Sep 09 |  Asia-Pacific
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Country profile: Samoa
19 Oct 11 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Samoa
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