Last week, the town of Kaiyo in Tokushima Prefecture unveiled the world’s first dual-mode vehicle (DMV) — a hybrid between a bus and a train. The hybrid traction vehicle is intended to attract more tourists to the town as well as help transport people between hard-to-reach areas.
The project has been in the pipeline for some time already. “It took as long as about 10 years to launch (the DMV service). I’m full of emotion,” said Kaiyo Mayor Shigeki Miura, who is also the president of Asa Coast Railway, the company responsible for engineering the DMV vehicle.
How does a DMV work?
The vehicle looks like a minibus and runs on normal rubber tires while on the road and switches to steel wheels to navigate a railway. When it reaches an interchange the steel wheels descend from the underside of the vehicle onto the rail track, turning it into a perfectly functioning train carriage. The entire transitioning process takes no longer than 15 seconds.
The bus-train vehicle can carry up to 21 passengers and reach speeds of 60kph (37mph) on rail and 100kph (62mph) on roads. “This (DMV) can reach the locals (as a bus), and carry them onto the railway as well,” Asa Coast Railway company CEO Shigeki Miura told Reuters. “Especially in rural areas with an aging population, we expect it to be a very good form of public transport.”
The vehicles are expected to hit the road (or train track) on the coast of Shikoku island in southern Japan. If the model proves successful, the vehicles may soon see adoption in other parts of the world as well.