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Commuter train hopes for route expansion to SEZ

A train waits at a station in Phnom Penh.
A train waits at a station in Phnom Penh. Athena Zelandonii

Commuter train hopes for route expansion to SEZ

A commuter rail service that runs from Phnom Penh’s central district to beyond its airport has slowly gained traction since it launched three months ago, raising the possibility that it could be expanded to connect the capital’s biggest industrial park.

The service, which runs three times per day, is typically used by villagers who live along the tracks to get to their places of employment in factories that line the route, according to John Guiry, CEO of Royal Railways, the company that holds a 30-year concession to operate the Kingdom’s railway network.

“[We] average 35 [passengers] per day,” he said yesterday, adding that the commuter train service makes a total of nine stops and costs from $0.75 to $1.50 depending on the distance travelled.

“While there are usually only around five passengers that get on from where the train leaves the centre of the city, passengers hop on as the train makes its regular stops,” he said.

“Sometimes it is around 35 passengers, but we have seen it fill up to as much as 75 passengers.”

Despite becoming a fixture for a few commuters, Guiry said it was too early to call it a successful service. But that could change with the proposed addition of a stop in the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone, a 357-hectare industrial park with 16,000 workers.

However, according to Va Sim Sorya, a spokesman for the Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MPWT), the government is still waiting on a feasibility study to determine whether it would be economically viable to ferry workers to and from the special economic zone (SEZ).

“The transport minister supports a line to the special economic zone to provide a low-cost way of getting to work,” he said. “But until the study is complete, we do not know if or when it will be operational.”

Nevertheless, Guiry said Royal Railways is currently in the process of purchasing three more passenger carriages in preparation for expanding services.

He added that the MPWT is a “big supporter” of the passenger service expansion and that it regularly gives the company positive feedback on its operations.

Royal Railways restored passenger service in April 2016 after a 14-year hiatus, running a scheduled weekend service along the Southern Line, a 266-kilometre rail line that stretches from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville.

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