In some areas the way to the train station is long, which is why many people there don’t even use Zug. Tracks in many rural areas are empty or little used because heavy train traffic is not worth it. A project will soon be launched in France to close this gap: the mini-train Flexy takes its passengers to their front door because it can disconnect from the rail network.
Tests are planned from 2024, with market launch a year later
The announcement comes from the National Company of the French Railways (SNCF): They want to test a train from 2024 that can go on the road at level crossings. If all goes well, the launch will take place in 2025. From now on Flexy mainly serves residential areas in rural areas that do not have their own train station. This opens blind spots for local public transport.
Similar attempts by Deutsche Bahn in the 1950s
The idea is not entirely new, as early as the 1950s, Deutsche Bahn was already testing a rail-road bus, which was simply called the Schi-Stra-Bus. The 13.5 tonne diesel vehicle ran on the rails for up to 120 hours. At that time, however, there were not enough train stations suitable for transferring between rail and road. In addition, there were other issues that eventually led to the project being halted in 1967.
Even earlier French project from the 1940s
The French were even faster: they invented a slightly different hybrid system in the 1940s with a regular road bus. He had to drive down a ramp on a railway carriage that made them suitable for train traffic. Unfortunately, the invention only survived a one-time use, and then this project too was over.
Hopefully Flexy isn’t a similar misfire. In any case, the mini train already has siblings: the lightweight French battery-operated TLI train is intended to breathe new life into under-used routes and can accommodate up to 100 passengers. And the light rail car Daisy will enter the test phase in 2025. It consists of parts from the automotive industry, is intended to carry up to 80 passengers and gets its energy from batteries.