Tokushima: ‘Two-way’ vehicles to roll out in Dec.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A dual-mode vehicle is seen in Kaiyo, Tokushima Prefecture.

TOKUSHIMA — Commercial operation of converted minibuses capable of traveling on both roads and railway tracks is set to begin on Dec. 25 in Tokushima Prefecture, a local council for the vehicle’s introduction has announced.

According to the council, the commercial operation of the dual-mode vehicle will be the first of its kind in the world.

The vehicles, capable of seating 20, run on rubber tires when on roads and transition to special rail-track wheels when on railway tracks.

Entities including the Tokushima and Kochi prefectural governments established the council to study the possibility of introducing the system with the hopes of the venture being less costly than maintaining regular railroads as well as serving as a tourist resource.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The close-up shows the front wheels in railway mode.

The council has been considering introducing the vehicles on the Asa Seaside Railway line, which runs across the two prefectures’ border. Managing company Asa Seaside Railway Corp. is a semipublic joint venture based in Kaiyo, Tokushima Prefecture.

Operation of the dual-mode vehicles was originally slated to begin by the summer of 2020, aligned with the original Tokyo Olympic timetable.

However, the project was pushed back three times for a number of reasons, including insufficient strength of some of the vehicles’ components, a problem pointed out at a central government meeting.

Once improvements were made to components, the initiative was ready to shift into high gear.

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The bus-mode vehicle will depart from Awa-Kainan Bunka Mura, a culture center in Kaiyo, then transition to the tracks at Awa-Kainan Station and head to Kannoura Station in Kochi Prefecture, where it reverts back to bus mode. The vehicle will use roads to head back to Kaiyo, traveling a total of about 15 kilometers to the roadside rest area Michi-no-Eki Shishikui Onsen.

A total of 13 round trips are planned for weekdays and 15 on weekends and holidays. there will also be a weekend-holiday route that extends to Cape Muroto, Kochi Prefecture and back. It will run about 50 kilometers to “Umi no Eki Toromu,” a product sales facility.

Online reservations can be made from Dec. 2.