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Delay in Sihanoukville rail link


Railway plan comes together. Source: Toll Royal Railway media kit October 2010. GRAPHIC DESIGNED BY POST STAFF

COMPLETION of the rail link between Kampot and Sihanoukville has been pushed back until later in 2011, after originally being slated to open this month, according to government officials.

The 146 kilometre line will enable freight shipments from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville Autonomous Port, after the 118 kilomtere Phnom Penh to Kampot link opened in October 2010.

“We are trying to push them to complete it by the end of the year – we cannot allow them to do it [slowly],” Ministry of Public Works and Transportation Undersecretary of State Yit Bunna said.

Some 60 percent of the link is already completed, though work was behind schedule, he said.

The Asian Development Bank, along with other organisations such as AusAid and Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries have committed US$141 million to restoring the Kingdom’s railways.

Cambodia represents the largest section of missing track on the proposed Singapore to Kunming, China link.

ADB Senior Transport Economist Peter Broch wrote that project work continued despite some delay.

“We expect the traffic to start in August 2011, unfortunately a delay in subcontracted earthworks pushed completion into the rainy season,” he said.

Broch added that the restoration work on other phases is ongoing and there will be no delay to the overall completion of the track.

On completion, the link will be beneficial in helping firms cut their transport costs and improve safety on the roads, Sihanoukville Autonomous Port Deputy Director General Ma Sun Hot said yesterday.

“The sooner it reopens, the better, as shipments through the port will increase,” he said. “I hope it leads to shipments doubling each year.”  

Experts pointed to the benefit the railroad would bring Cambodia’s economy.

International trade through the port will increase, but it will also prove a boon to rural communities along the tracks, according to Acleda Bank Vice Chairman John Brinsden.

“Agricultural communities and micro-economies along the line can also benefit, as it provides another outlet for their produce. Not all the freights have to be containers,” he said

Brinsden also said he believes there is potential for the rail network to launch passenger service in the future.

“Passenger carriages may require a separate licence, however if an application is successful, this would be an immeasurable improvement for tourist transport in a country where it lacks,” he said.

Brinsden added that the track would be a far more convenient method of freight transportation, alleviating pressure on the Kingdom’s crowded road network.

The completion of work on the Southern Line will be followed by refurbishment of the 388 kilometre line from Phnom Penh to Sisophon, and construction of a 48 kilometre line connecting Sisophon with Poipet on the Thai border, according to sole railroad concessionaire Toll Royal Railway’s website. The two stretches, when complete, will comprise the Northern Line.

Toll Royal Railways is 55 percent owned by Australia’s Toll Group, and 45 percent by Cambodia’s Royal Group.

Yit Bunna said he expects the entire repair project to be wrapped up by 2013.

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