AUGUST 2 saw the start of revenue operations with Japan’s first 100% low-floor tram in the city of Kumamoto. Ordered in June 1996 from Niigata Engineering and Adtranz, the two-section car was delivered for commissioning trials in April and was approved for operation by the Japanese Ministry of Transport in July.

The vehicle is derived from the AEG-Bremen design supplied to various German cities by Adtranz, but has been adapted to Japanese requirements by Niigata. Bogies, traction equipment and some interior parts were supplied from Germany for assembly in Japan. Floor height is 360mm above rail, sloping down to 300mm at the two 1250mm wide doorways on each side. Fully air-conditioned, the car has 24 seats, and 15·6m2 of standing space. Seats are mounted on boxes concealing equipment or the wheelsets.

With an overall length of 18550mm and a width of 2350mm, the car has a total weight of 21 tonnes. It is carried on two four-wheeled bogies, one under the centre of each section. The inner wheelset on each bogie is driven by a 100 kW body-mounted motor through a cardan shaft. Traction power is supplied at 600V DC. Top speed is 70 km/h, giving a commercial speed of 40 km/h. Normal acceleration and braking rates are 1·3m/s2, with an emergency braking rate of 2·7m/s2. o