A small town in Japan just celebrated the maiden voyage of its first dual-mode vehicle that combines a train and a bus, and comes with little train wheels that hoist its rubber tires into the air so that it can sit onto the tracks and oh, my god this thing is precious! And why, yes, that is a surfing shrimp painted on its side!
The Japan Times calls it a dual-mode vehicle (DMV), but we know it’s bustrain or trainbus, depending on how its traveling at any given moment. It’s run by the Asa Coast Railway Company, and will operate in the town of Kaiyō. It’ll travel between Tokushima and Kochi prefecture, for what looks like a reasonable fare.
It can carry up to 21 passengers. When traveling via rail, it’ll go up to 37 miles per hour but can go up to 62 mph on roads. There’s a longer, more thorough video about the dual-mode vehicle courtesy of NHK, but this footage from the South China Morning Post sums it up nicely:
The bustrain, trainbus, DMV or whatever you want to call it is smiling. No, it’s grinning. Either way, it’s friendly and adorable. And it’s proud of itself just like the government officials in Tokushima prefecture, because it was a long road getting here. From the Japan Times:
At a ceremony to mark the launch of the service, Tokushima Gov. Kamon Iizumi said he wants to “send dreams and hopes to the world” from the prefecture through the DMV.
“It took as long as about 10 years to launch (the DMV service). I’m full of emotion,” said Kaiyo Mayor Shigeki Miura, who doubles as president of Asa Coast Railway. The company’s railway service links Tokushima and neighboring Kochi Prefecture.
This is some Studio Ghibli-level of ingenuity.
This is close to solarpunk, or the antithesis of cyberpunk and its dystopias.
Yes, the dual-mode vehicle has a diesel engine so it wouldn’t slot right into a solarpunk fantasy but the idea behind it does. At the very least, it’s an innovative approach to transportation in a region of Japan that is struggling, per the Japan Times:
Miura said the vehicles could help small towns like Kaiyo with an aging and shrinking population, where local transport companies struggle to make a profit.
“This (DMV) can reach the locals (as a bus), and carry them onto the railway as well,” he said Friday. “Especially in rural areas with an aging population, we expect it to be a very good form of public transport.”
But it’s not just innovative; it’s optimistic. It’s a BusTrain.