Asa Seaside Railway in Tokushima Prefecture will introduce a dual-mode vehicle (DMV) this summer which can run along both railway tracks and roads. The new DMV runs on normal rubber tires when on roads, but at interchange stops the rubber tires are lifted and special rail-track wheels descend. Although JR Hokkaido have previously tested a similar DMV, the new DMV in Tokushima will be the first of its kind to run regular commercial operations.
Asa Seaside Railway (nicknamed “Asatetsu”) is a semi-private 3rd sector railway company in the island of Shikoku’s Tokushima Prefecture. The company runs just one line called the Asato Line which runs between Kaifu Station in the town of Kaiyo and Kannoura Station in the town of Toyo. Because this is a rural area and is thinly populated, the railway has been struggling to do business and has been under the threat of closure for some time. It is hoped that the new DMV will both expand the range of the railway’s business and also revitalize the local economy by attracting tourists. Naturally, the DMV will also be more convenient for locals as they won’t have to transfer between trains and buses.
The Asato Line is a short line of 8.5km with just three stations: Kaifu, Shishikui, and Kannoura. However, the DMV will begin its rail journey at Awa-Kainan Station on the JR Mugi Line and so travel for 10km in railway mode. On weekdays the DMV will run in bus mode from the cultural experience center and museum at Awa-Kainan Bunkamura, join the railway line at Awa-Kainan Station, and then return to bus mode after Kannoura Station. From there it will run as a bus to the Shishikui Onsen hot spring resort and then to Shirahama Beach. On weekends and holidays the DMV will run just one journey, but it will continue in bus mode all the way to Cape Muroto stopping at various seaside sightseeing spots along the way. Preparations are still underway, but it is hoped that the DMV will begin its first commercial operations in time for this summer’s Tokyo Olympics.
Article by Michael Lambe. Photos courtesy of Asa Seaside Railway. All rights reserved.