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World’s 1st commercially operated bus-train dual-mode vehicles launched in west Japan

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mainichi– The world’s first full-scale commercial operation of dual-mode vehicles (DMVs), which run on tracks and roads, began in western Japan’s Shikoku region on Dec. 25.

The DMVs operated by joint public-private venture Asa Coast Railway Co., based in the Tokushima Prefecture town of Kaiyo, will run in Tokushima and Kochi prefectures. As it is apparently the first time in the world for such vehicles to be commercially operated, they are gathering attention as a new tourist attraction, and are expected to play a role in community transportation.

The DMVs were converted from minibuses. Each has 18 passenger seats and can carry 21 people. When running on rail tracks, it takes about 15 seconds for the steel wheels to emerge from the vehicles’ underside.

On weekdays, they will connect the Awakainan Bunkamura cultural facility and Roadside Station Shishikui Onsen, both in Kaiyo. Of the approximately 15-kilometer route, some 10 kilometers between Awa-Kainan Station in Kaiyo and Kannoura Station in the town of Toyo, Kochi Prefecture, is on rail tracks.

On weekends and holidays, the vehicles will also run on the approximately 50-kilometer section between the Awakainan Bunkamura facility and Roadside Station Toromu in the Kochi Prefecture city of Muroto.

In a launching ceremony at Awakainan Bunkamura on Dec. 25, some 800 people including local residents watched over a departing DMV. Kaiyo Mayor Shigeki Miura, who doubles as president of Asa Coast Railway, said, “We’d like to strive to continue safe operation of these vehicles so they can receive credit as a new model for local transportation.”

Three DMVs will make a total of 26 inbound and outbound trips on weekdays, and 30 trips including extra services on weekends and holidays. Local residents have priority for some of the passenger seats. Seats can be booked on the bus reservation website at: https://secure.j-bus.co.jp/hon (in Japanese).