CAMBODIA’S restored railway is set to have full access to Sihanoukville’s port after key stakeholders agreed in principle to a link following months of talks.
The US$141 million restoration of 690 kilometres of the Kingdom’s tracks, jointly funded by the Asian Development Bank and AusAID, had always included plans to access the port's freight terminal – enabling trains to transport goods easily across its network.
But, according to ADB’s senior transport economist Peter Broch, the connection plan had stalled over its “technical implementation”.
“There was a memorandum which goes back to 2007 between the parties, but it had a different solution [for port access]. We have now found an alternative.... In fact there will be a new container railway terminal,” he said yesterday.
“The end result is that the railway will have equal access to the port, meaning it can move containers as easily, in principle, as trucks.”
The negotiations, involving railway operator Toll Royal Railway, Sihanoukville Autonomous Port, the port’s development sponsor Japan International Cooperation Agency and the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, were resolved last week.
“We have in-principle agreement. We don’t need to have any more meetings,” port chief executive Lou Kim Chun said. A final draft of the agreement was now being drawn up for signing, he said.
Toll Chief Executive David Kerr declined to comment on the latest developments.
Earlier he said though, that the economics of the railway project would be affected if direct container port access was not facilitated.
Peter Broch agreed that it was a valuable link. “In terms of the railway, container freight is important because it forms a valuable source of traffic demand. If the railway couldn’t handle it, it would be cut totally out of that market,” he said.
A JICA spokesperson said: “It is important to harmonise the container terminal and railway. Overall, it is about trade promotion and economic development.” A ministry official dealing with the project was not available for comment yesterday.