Toyota, Hino to help develop road-rail vehicle: spokesman

TOKYO, May 26, 2008 (AFP) – Japan’s Toyota Motor Corp. and its truck-making affiliate have joined a project to develop an environmentally friendly vehicle capable of moving both on roads and railways, an official said Monday. Toyota and affiliate Hino Motors Ltd. will take part in the development of a new model of a road-rail vehicle originally created by railway operator JR Hokkaido, a Hino spokesman said.

The two auto companies are providing technology and materials to strengthen the front part of the “dual mode vehicle” so that it can carry up to 25 people.

The railway firm is already developing several prototypes of road-rail vehicles and has begun test drives.

The operator, which operates railways in the nation’s northern island of Hokkaido, has developed the vehicle as part of its effort to utilise railways now out of service due to a sharp decline in passengers in the region.

The vehicle has eight wheels — four iron wheels for railways and four rubber tyres for roads — and is powered by a diesel engine. It is said to burn only one fourth of the fuel of conventional diesel-powered cars.

“Our contribution is expected to be another step toward more practical use of the dual mode vehicle,” said Ke