The government plans to sign a framework agreement with Beijing on November 9 on concessional financing for the construction of the Phnom Penh-Bavet Expressway, the second of its kind in the Kingdom, after the first high-speed thoroughfare connecting the capital to the coastal Sihanoukville.

The second expressway is expected to provide a substantial boost to trade and tourism flows between Cambodia and Vietnam. Customs figures show that January-September trade between the two countries hit $4.634 billion, up 22.02 per cent year-on-year, with Cambodian exports at $1.560 billion, up 3.13 per cent.

Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol told an October 27 press conference at the Council of Ministers that the new expressway would be 138km with two lanes in either direction, and would include 2.700km-long, 37.5m-high twin bridges “similar to Tsubasa Bridge”, which connects Kandal and Prey Veng provinces along National Road 1 and is also known as Neak Loeung.

“We will build a new expressway from Phnom Penh to Bavet, to connect the town in Svay Rieng province to Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City.

“An inter-ministerial commission is working to negotiate a concession agreement to be signed on November 9, during an official visit by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to attend the ASEAN summit.

“We’ve been asked by [Prime Minister Hun Sen] to make every effort to wrap up talks and break ground on the second expressway next year.

“Given our experience with the construction company behind the Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway, it’s understood that we could be ready to break ground in June 2023, as per the company’s plans,” he said, apparently suggesting that the developers of the two expressways would be either the same company or affiliates.

He commented that the expressways will spur growth in the provinces they cross.

According to Chanthol, the first expressway was constructed by Phnom Penh-based Cambodian PPSHV Expressway Co Ltd – a subsidiary of China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) – with supervision by Malaysian firm Minconsult Sdn Bhd at a cost of just over $2 billion.

He noted that the road is subject to concession agreement, after which it would be returned to the Cambodian government.

Cambodia Logistics Association (CLA) president Sin Chanthy remarked that his association has followed the studies on the Phnom Penh-Bavet Expressway for many years, and lauded government efforts to develop infrastructure nationwide.

“The government has now tasked a Chinese company to take up the construction work next year, which will be a significant driver of trade and tourism with Vietnam.

“With Cambodia and Vietnam actively exchanging goods year after year, this expressway will save us time and make transport easier,” he said.

Reports surfaced in August that Cambodia and Vietnam plan to increase the quota of total commercial vehicles permitted to cross their shared frontier from 500 for each side to 800 by the end of this year to facilitate cross-border trade between the two neighbouring ASEAN nations and meet the growing trade demand.