The train route that is set to connect Poipet to Thailand is in the midst of being extended to Battambang city, which could eventually carry passengers from Phnom Penh to Bangkok.
The project is part of the eastern corridor of the Singapore-Kunming Rail Link, a key link in increasing connectivity among ASEAN member states.
Va Simsorya, spokesman for Ministry of Public Works and Transport, said the establishment of a section of the railway, from Poipet to Battambang province, is currently ongoing but noted there had been some difficulties concerning disputes with citizens which had slowed down the development’s progress.
The distance from Poipet city to Battambang is about 122 kilometres, and the plan is for that section of the railway to be completed this year.
Simsorya continued, “The railroad part from Poipet city to Sisophon city will be completed first, but the part from Sisophon to Battambang city is estimated to take a little bit longer than that.”
It is understood Prime Minister Hun Sen plans to board the train from Sisophon and shake hands with Thailand’s Prime Minister, Prayut Chan-o-cha, at the Cambodia-Thai border in Poipet this year. However, that plan is likely to be delayed due to the railway works going over schedule. The 6.5-kilometre railway stretch between Poipet and Sisophon was initially expected to be completed by mid-2016.
Ly Borin, undersecretary of state at the Public Works and Transport ministry, acknowledged there had been three concurrent problems preventing the project from being completed on schedule.
He cited legislative procedure hiccups, followed by prolonged rain in the wet season as the first two issues, while clashes with locals had also proved to be a source of contention.
On a more positive note, Borin said the construction of the railway would eventually extend beyond Battambang city to Phnom Penh, with plans for the line’s extension to become clearer in 2018.
“The world is shifting its attention towards transportation via locomotive means and trains can handle heavy cargos and cut down significantly on car accidents,” he said.
“Till this day, Thailand has already given us the head and body parts of the trains, all we need to do now is wait for Cambodia to finish the railway construction.”
Post Property has previously reported that the anticipated railway connection from Battambang province to Phnom Penh is expected to cost $150 million.
Nguon Ratanak, a spokesperson for Battambang city, said the connection of the railway would yield a range of benefits, such as making travelling more convenient while also reducing shipping cargo.
“If the train is put into full operation at fast speed then there will be many passengers, and the province will reap benefits as a result in the future,” he said.
The railway line, funded by the Asian Development Bank in 2010, is a long-delayed project that has encountered its fair share of hitches. At one stage, the development bank’s internal watchdog found that they had flouted their own safeguards when it came to the resettlement of Cambodians affected by the project.
Apart from connecting its borders with Thailand by rail, Cambodia also has plans to expand National Road 5, which currently stretches from Phnom Penh to Poipet.
Chhim Phalla, director of the Ministry of Public Work’s Department of International Cooperation, said the National Road 5 expansion project from Prek Kdam to Poipet city will start construction next month.
The works involve extending the road by 20 metres, which will in turn enable vehicles to travel along a dual carriageway.
The road will be constructed in three parts and is scheduled to be completed in 2021.
“It’s a very important road since it acts as an adjoining road between Thailand and Cambodia, and that also head towards Vietnam,” Phalla said.
Ministry of Industry and Handicraft spokesman Heng Sokong said the government had plans to organise an industrial area along National Road 5 in order to benefit from the anticipated heavy cargo transportation in the north-west area of the road.
Sorn Seap, founder and director of Key Real Estate, said National Road 5 traverses both Poipet and Battambang, which he noted were two cities poised for growth thanks in part to the railway which would increase business transactions with Thailand.