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Commuter rail link from city to airport considered

A passenger train sits at the railway station in Phnom Penh early last month.
A passenger train sits at the railway station in Phnom Penh early last month. Athena Zelandonii

Commuter rail link from city to airport considered

Royal Railways, the company that holds a 30-year concession to operate the Kingdom’s railway network, is conducting a feasibility study on establishing a commuter rail service to run between the capital’s airport and its central district, the company’s chief executive said yesterday.

However, he refuted a local media report that the project was similar, or complementary, to a large-scale proposal by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

Unlike the $586-million automated train system officially proposed by JICA in the middle of last year, Royal Railways CEO John Guiry said the project he envisions is just a small “tram service”.

“This has been an idea that everybody has been thinking about for awhile by using the existing rail lines to run [from central Phnom Penh] to the airport,” he said, adding that the 10 kilometre trip would take about 15 to 20 minutes.

While he said the plan hinges on a cost study, Guiry said the project would only require a small section of track to be added to the existing rail line, and could be implemented in less than two years.

With the envisioned plan requiring a marginal footprint, he said “a small line would not go through any houses”.

“There is way to build the line where you don’t have to do that,” he said, without providing more details.

Guiry expects a decision to pursue the project could come within four to six weeks, after a cost study has been completed and all the stakeholders involved have reviewed the proposal.

“If the plan comes together” the initiative would “not need foreign partnerships or outside funding”, he said, adding that Royal Railways would shoulder the construction costs.

As for the government, “they would help us get official approval”, he said. “It is a common sense initiative to relieve traffic congestion to the airport.”

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