TOKYO - It's a bus, it's a train, it's a DMV! The world's first dual-mode vehicle, equally at home on road and rail, is set to make its public debut on Saturday in the town of Kaiyo in Japan's Tokushima prefecture.
The DMV looks like a minibus and runs on normal rubber tyres on the road. But when it arrives at an interchange, steel wheels descend from the vehicle's underbelly onto the rail track, effectively turning it into a train carriage.
The train wheels lift the front tyres off the track while the rear wheels stay down to propel the DMV onto the railway.
The CEO of Asa Coast Railway company, which operates the DMVs, said the vehicles could help small towns like Kaiyo with an ageing and shrinking population, where local transport companies struggle to make a profit.
"This (DMV) can reach the locals (as a bus), and carry them onto the railway as well," CEO Shigeki Miura told Reuters on Friday. "Especially in rural areas with an ageing population, we expect it to be a very good form of public transport."
The DMV can carry up to 21 passengers and runs at a speed of 60km/h (37 mph) on rail tracks and can go as fast as around 100km/h (62 mph) on public roads, Asa Coast Railway said.
Powered by diesel fuel, the small fleet of vehicles, which come in different colours, will run along part of the coast of Shikoku island in southern Japan, connecting several small towns and offering passengers attractive seaside scenery.
Miura said he hoped the project would encourage railway fans from around Japan to visit.