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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - New sky train to ease growing traffic snarls in the capital, govt says

New sky train to ease growing traffic snarls in the capital, govt says

Elevated roadway could be completed by 2017, according to officials, but project lacks money  and must look to donors, private sector for funds

OFFICIALS studying ways to ease growing traffic congestion in downtown Phnom Penh have proposed that a sky train could be built between Central Market and Phnom Penh International Airport as a way to get vehicles off of the roads, a senior official with the Ministry of Public Works and Transport said.

The idea came to the fore following a three-month study by the Japan External Trade Organisation, commissioned by the ministry, on improving traffic, said Touch Chankosal, a ministry secretary of state.

"[They] conducted a feasibility study to build a sky train to improve the deteriorating traffic situation and showed that it was possible to build it between the Central Market and [airport], at a length of eight kilometres," he told the Post on Sunday.

The project is estimated to cost US$300 million, he added.

Heavy scepticism

Officials, however, say a sky train should not be a development priority for Cambodia, which still lacks basic transport infrastructure in many places.

"I think the sky train project is not a priority. The government should focus on rural infrastructure," said Mu Sochua, deputy secretary general of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party.

"The sky train will do nothing to relieve the city's traffic burdens."

Others, too, are  skeptical of the benefits of the project.

"If [it] materialises, it could make only a small change in congestion due to the fact that are more vehicles on the roads and there is ignorance of traffic laws," said Phnom Penh Traffic Police Chief Tin Prasoeur.

The number of automobiles and motorbikes in Cambodia has increased nearly three-fold in the last few years, with some 80,000 cars and 220,000 motorbikes currently registered in the capital alone, according to Phnom Penh Tax Branch records.

Tin Prasoeur added, however, that a sky train would be a sign of the city's economic development.

Crippling costs

Touch Chankosal said that, despite the project's feasibility study, its cost would require funding by outside investors.

"It is a huge project, so.... It should be conducted by the government in partnership with the private sector," he said. "But our government has no budget for such a large project.

"The ministry and [the Japan International Cooperation Agency] are currently looking for Japanese investors, especially from experienced construction firms such as Katahira and Marubeni," Touch Chankosal added.

But despite the high costs, the project is a necessary step towards alleviating the capital's traffic, which sees vehicles grinding to a halt during the rush hour on many of the city's main roads, he said.

"Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines have such projects," Touch Chankosal said.

"I think that it is time we take on this megaproject," he added.

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