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The regional Asa Kaigan Tesudo in southeastern Shikoku is to start revenue operation using ‘dual-mode’ road-rail vehicles from December 25, having finally received authorisation for its modified midi-buses to carry passengers.
The 10 km single-track 1 067 mm gauge line connecting Awa-Kainan in Tokushima prefecture with Kannoura in neighbouring Kochi is the remnant of an unfinished JNR extension across the southeast of the island. This was spun off as an independent railway in 1992 and subsequently operated by conventional diesel railcars, connecting with JR Shikoku’s electrified Mugi Line.
Under an initiative led by Tokushima prefecture, the lightly-used line has been converted for operation with road-rail buses that can leave the railway to serve the town centres at both ends of the line.
Three Coaster diesel midi-buses have been supplied by Toyota; each has seats for 21 passengers, and room for up to three standing, but limited space for wheelchairs and luggage. Paved adapter tracks have been built at Awa-Kaigan and Kannoura where the DMVs can transfer between road and rail. Flanged guide wheels are lowered at front and back to prevent derailments, but the rubber-tyred rear road wheels continue to provide traction in the rail mode.
Test running began in December 2020, with the aim of starting revenue service in mid-2021, but the opening was delayed after a safety inspection determined that modifications were needed to strengthen the vehicle suspensions.
According to AKT, this will be the world’s first regular timetabled service to be operated with road-rail vehicles, although prototypes have been trialled in many countries over the past century.
This article first appeared on www.railwaygazette.com
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