LICENcE CHECKS TO BEGIN WITH NEW YEAR
Traffic police across the country will begin to check that drivers have licences in a bid starting January 1 to phase in a national system of driver registration, police officers announced on Thursday. Him Yan, director of the Department of Public Order at the Ministry of Interior, said that if a person is found to lack a valid driver’s license, the police will educate the driver on the importance of learning traffic laws and encourage obtaining a licence. The police will not be penalising drivers for failing to have a licence because more than 90 percent of drivers on Cambodian roads have yet to obtain these, said Chum Thany, the traffic police chief of Kampong Cham province. He added, “I think it will take a long time for the public to acquire driver licences. But once drivers are educated about traffic laws, then this would reduce accidents significantly.”
PHNOM Penh Governor Kep Chuktema has pledged to create a public transport service within five years in a bid to ease traffic congestion in the capital.
“In five more years, if we do not have public transportation, the capital’s land traffic will become increasingly congested,” Kep Chuktema said Thursday at a City Hall meeting.
Between 300 and 400 new motorbikes hit the capital’s streets every month, the governor estimated.
“Now, we are thinking that if we create a bus system, people will travel by bus,” Kep Chuktema said, adding, however, that “Cambodian people do not like to walk, and they like to use their own vehicles to travel quickly to their destinations. This is an obstacle to creating a public bus system”.
In 2001, the Phnom Penh Municipality and Ho Wah Genting Transport firm signed a contract allowing the company to provide bus service within the city. After a month-long trial period, however, the project was shut down due to lack of funding.
Initially, bus fares were set at 500 riels (US$0.12) per trip, though they later were raised to 800 riels. The service proved popular, attracting more than 5,000 passengers per day before ridership tapered off to between 2,500 and 3,000 passengers.
Chan Sophana, general manager at Phnom Penh Sorya Transportation, formerly Ho Wah Genting Transport, said he welcomed the idea of resurrecting the bus system.
He cautioned, however, that the municipality would need to take a different approach to the project than it did in 2001.
In other countries that contract public transport to private companies, Chan Sophana explained, the government helps to defray losses sustained by the companies as a result of keeping fares low. This was not the case in Phnom Penh, however.
“We could not make any profits running that service here. We had to charge such low fees that we could not even pay for gasoline,” he said.
Twenty-eight-year-old Tith Theakun, who works at a local travel agency and drives her car to work every day, said Thursday that she would welcome a renewal of the public bus system, as traffic congestion in the capital has become an onerous aspect of her daily commute.
“I’ve been waiting for a bus service so that I do not have to take my car to work. I’ll save money and I will arrive on time,” she said.