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Pay-parking firm seeks more space in Phnom Penh

A car sits in an automated car-parking bay that was installed by Sonatra Carling near Phnom Penh’s Wat Ounalom last year.
A car sits in an automated car-parking bay that was installed by Sonatra Carling near Phnom Penh’s Wat Ounalom last year. Heng Chivoan

Pay-parking firm seeks more space in Phnom Penh

Sonatra Carling, the Japanese-Cambodian joint venture behind Phnom Penh’s first automated toll-parking system, sustained losses during its first year of operation, but remains committed to the project and is looking to expand the model to other areas of the capital, a company executive said yesterday.

The company invested about $200,000 into the pilot project, which launched last July with 31 mechanical parking stalls located behind Wat Ounalom in the capital’s riverside neighbourhood.

The project introduced a ticket-based parking scheme whereby drivers are charged for the time their vehicle spends in the parking berth.

Tetsuji Nagata, CEO of Sonatra Carling, said the toll-parking project lost $50,000 during its first year of operation, factoring in operation costs, attendant salaries and depreciation of equipment.

He said the parking stalls received about 200 cars per day, with the majority of vehicles spending less than an hour in the stall per visit, charged at a rate of 1,000 riel ($0.25) per hour. On average, the stalls were operating at a low 40 per cent capacity.

“Customers always try to find another place and park their car illegally, so they come to park at our place only after those places are full,” explained Nagata.

Despite the discouraging results, he confirmed that the company was currently looking to expand the toll-parking scheme and is in negotiations with City Hall to add up to eight new locations by the end of the year. He said that Sonatra is thinking beyond short-term losses and recognises the advantages of scaling up.

“We understood that we would lose money and business opportunities now, but we are thinking ahead for the next 10 years,” Nagata said.

“Phnom Penh will need more legal car-parking spaces rather than allowing vehicles to park illegally anywhere like we see now.”

Ear Chakrya, director of the Traffic Safety Institute, said the introduction of privately run toll-parking operations in Phnom Penh was a good initiative to reduce traffic congestion on the capital’s streets.

He said a study commissioned last year by City Hall revealed that the economic cost of traffic jams was staggering, costing the city $6 million a month. One of the main reasons for this congestion was illegally parked vehicles.

Chakrya urged the government to support the private sector toll-parking project by enforcing laws that prohibit vehicles from parking outside designated areas on public streets.

“Authorities need to enforce the law more stringently by penalising any drivers who park their vehicle illegally on a public road,” he said. “This is the only way to support the operation of this parking business.”

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