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Photos: Kazumiki Miura

JAPAN: The start of regular road-rail services on the Asa Kaigan Tetsudo in southeast Shikoku was marked with a ceremony at Awa-Kainan-Bunkamura on December 25.

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Under an initiative led by Tokushima Prefecture, the third-sector railway company has put into service three modified Toyota Coaster midi-buses to operate the 10 km line between Awa-Kainan and Kannoura in neighbouring Kochi prefecture.

Replacing conventional diesel railcars, the Dual-Mode Vehicles are designed to switch from rail to road at purpose-built interchange ramps. This enables them to serve the town centres at each end of the railway, and potentially to provide tourist services to destinations further afield.

Services had been expected to begin in mid-2020, but the launch was delayed by the need for modifications to the vehicle suspensions.