Rails carry more people more quickly than roads, particularly in rush hour. Unfortunately our modern low-density suburban development is not necessarily built around rail corridors, and people hate transferring from buses to trains. In Japan, the Hokkaido Railway Company has introduced a DMV (Dual Mode Vehicle) which can run on roads like a bus in low density areas (they are doing it because of declining populations in Hokkaido) and then on rails in more developed areas. ::Japanrail News
we quote Japan Railways:
In the year 2000, Hokkaido Railway Company (JR Hokkaido) began developing a prototype DMV (Dual Mode Vehicle) ‘minibus’ that will carry 25 passengers and can operate as a train, running on tracks with steel and rubber wheels, as well as a bus, driving on roads with conventional tires. Now nearing completion this remarkable hybrid will be able to take advantage of existing rail track through more developed areas and then shift to roadways for operation in less-densely populated areas. Overcoming the main obstacle to this kind of service it can change from one type of wheels to the other in 10 to 15 seconds!
The first DMV service is scheduled to begin by April of 2007. Although the ultimate goal of the DMV is transport in rural areas, the first application will be on a tourist route traveling round trip from Hamako-Shimizu to Mokoto along the Senmo Main Line on the northeast coast near Abashiri. During this trial period the DMV will go one way on track (11 km) and then return by meandering roads as a bus (21 km). The success of the DMV will be of great benefit to both JR Hokkaido and the declining rural population of the island. At present one third of JR Hokkaido’s routes are unprofitable, carrying less than 500 passengers a day. DMV service may save many thousands of residents from losing their rail transit while providing them with even more convenient ‘door to door’ service. And how do you say Dual Mode Vehicle in Japanese? It’s not too hard: Dyuaru Modo Biikuru!