Train companies use maintenance vehicles that can switch from road to rails, however, this is the first time I’ve seen bus do this. Japan Rail is testing the bus-train combo on the island of Hokkaido. The system seems to work because the mass transit there is not mass at all.
Dual-mode vehicles have four rubber tires for road use and four steel wheels for the rails, and it takes less than 15 seconds to go from road to rail and back again. It drives just like a bus on the road, and a hydraulic system raises the tires and lowers the steel wheels as the driver guides the vehicle onto the tracks.
Japan Rail provides rail service for the island of Hokkaido, and about one-third of its lines carry less than 500 people. It developed the dual-mode vehicles as a means of cutting costs on those lines without reducing service. The vehicles use a Toyota microbus body and axles built by Hino. The two companies will help Japan Rail refine the technology and increase passenger capacity with an eye toward commercial production.