A fleet of more than 20 buses will hit the streets of central Phnom Penh in May in
a one-month Japanese-funded trial public transit program.
The Phnom Penh Municipality in cooperation with the Japan International Cooperation
Agency (JICA) has developed a plan for a two-route bus system operating on a north-south
corridor linking Chbar Ampov with the Japanese Bridge as well as a shuttle service
linking Sihanouk, Norodom, Kampuchea Krom and Nehru Boulevards.
"We have made a request for the Government of Japan to supply us 20 buses with
seating for between 20 and 60 passengers each," Phnom Penh Municipal Governor
Chea Sophara said. "I believe that we can get the buses on the road by May,
and that the fares will be cheaper than what people will pay [driving] their own
JICA Assistant Resident Representative Koizumi Yukihiro says between 22 and 24 buses
have already been sourced by JICA through the Ho Hwa Genting Bus Company, which runs
numerous inter-city passenger bus service routes.
"Ho Hwa Genting already has a license to run a Phnom Penh bus service,"
Yukihiro said of the choice of the company as the service provider for the one month
Yukihiro said that fares would be posted at between 500 and 800 riel, and that bus
stops would be built every 300 and 500 meters along the two routes.
The bus service would operate daily between 5:30am and 7:30pm, with a frequency of
5-10 minutes between buses.
According to Yukihiro, the most challenging aspect of the plan will be the enforcement
of a one-month ban on motorcycles and motorcycle taxis along the core section of
the bus route on Monivong Boulevard between Sihanouk Boulevard and Kampuchea Krom.
"The ban on motorcycle taxis is to ensure that the buses can operate smoothly
and safely during the trial," Yukihiro said.
To head off protests from motor cycle taxi drivers angered by being blocked from
the use of one of the city's main thoroughfares to and from Psah Thmei, Yukihiro
says JICA has funded repairs on the roads parallel to Street 63 and Street 105 to
encourage their use as alternate North-South access routes.
Yukihiro said the trial bus plan would be evaluated for cost effectiveness after
one month with a possibility for a permanent system in the near future.
"Ho Hwa Genting has already said that if the system operates well without motorcycle
taxi obstacles and with fares of 800-1000 riels per passenger, they would like to
operate it as a [permanent] public transit system."
But according to Ho Hwa Genting Operation Manager Teo Siew Chong, Yukihiro's rosy
assessments of the potential viability of the public bus system is not shared by
Siew Chong says that the company has serious concerns about how motodop drivers will
react to a service that they will inevitably interpret as a threat to their livelihood.
"I'm sure that motodops will protest this service," he said.
Ho Hwa Genting is also doubtful about how receptive the general public will be to
a bus service that will be perceived as far less convenient than cyclos and motorcycle
"People are used to being picked up and dropped off at their door by motodop...a
bus service that only stops at set bus stops will not be very popular," Siew
Chong said. "It will take another five or 10 years before Phnom Penh is ready
for a real public bus service."