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Minister talks sky train plan as Grab signs initiative with UN

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A train sits on the tracks outside the Phnom Penh train station in March. The country’s transportation minister claimed on Tuesday that the feasibility study for a proposed sky train would be finished this year or next. Tep Sony

Minister talks sky train plan as Grab signs initiative with UN

The minister of public works and transport confirmed on Tuesday that a Japanese-funded sky train project in the capital is moving forward, with the feasibility study expected to be completed this year or next.

Addressing reporters during the signing ceremony of an agreement between ride-hailing firm Grab and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) meant to boost safe and clean transportation in the Kingdom, Sun Chanthol said his ministry expects the sky train to help alleviate traffic congestion in the capital.

“The study will be completed by this year or next. It is a comprehensive project and needs time . . . around two or three years to complete,” he said, rejecting Facebook posts which claimed that the Japanese government had refused to fund the project.

“Let me clarify that the Japanese government already agreed [to fund the project] following a request by Prime Minister Hun Sen for the sky train construction, but the study needs time,” he said, adding that both sides had already met twice for project discussions.

Chanthol said the third meeting will take place this month, after which the government will announce more details about construction plans.

The 18km airport sky train running from Psar Thmey (Central Market) to Phnom Penh International Airport will cost between $800 million and $1 billion, he said.

Chanthol said a Chinese company has also expressed interest in conducting a feasibility study on a second sky train in Phnom Penh.

The deal signed between Grab and the UNDP will see $500,000 spent within three years to advance sustainable transportation, and has been dubbed the Sustainable Urban Mobility for All Initiative (Sumai).

Utilising the ride-sharing firm’s data on traffic patterns, the initiative aims to bring more fuel-efficient transportation options to the people to improve air quality and reduce congestion.

“We already have a special team seeking a solution to the traffic problems in Phnom Penh. Grab will send us information on traffic and the UNDP will work with us to figure out the issue,” Chanthol, said.

UNDP country Director in Cambodia Nick Beresford said the initiative went beyond corporate responsibility and offered a new model for partnerships between the private and public sectors in the Kingdom.

Russell Cohen, the head of regional operations at Grab, said that the initiative provided a great opportunity for the partners to work on improving road safety and traffic efficiency in Cambodia.

“Our continued partnership with the UNDP will help us further our ambition to make Southeast Asian cities cleaner and more liveable,” he said.

Grab has committed to providing contributions such as data sharing, technology expertise, staff, and promoting of the use of green vehicles among its driver-partners and passengers, said a joint statement.

The company entered Cambodia late last year, behind rival Uber. And in March this year, it announced its of purchase of Uber’s assets in the region, including in Cambodia.

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