Japan's Hokkaido Railway Co. (JR Hokkaido) has announced a new minibus based vehicle which has the capacity to run on both road and rail. The so called dual mode vehicle (DMV), which has been in development since 2002, can switch from steel-wheeled rail mode to rubber-wheeled highway mode in 10-15 seconds, a transition which is designed to take place at rail stations. A trial service using the vehicle will begin in April 2007 on the Senmo Line between Hamakoshimizu and Mokoto stations in Hokkaido.

JR Hokkaido's motivation behind development of the DMV was to improve the financial viability of rural transport services which are desperate to reduce costs. Around 30 percent of JR Hokkaido's local rail lines have a daily patronage of fewer than 500 people which is not productive. At a cost of Y20 million (US$169,000), the 25 seat vehicle DMV is a fraction of the cost of traditional diesel-powered rail cars and enjoys massive savings in areas of fuel and maintenance costs.

The DMV allows passengers to travel without transferring between trains and buses. A test model was unveiled by in January 2004 and has received over 400 inquiries and about 4,000 test riders.

[Source: Drive.com.au]


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