THE Intergovernmental Agreement on the Trans-Asian Railway (TAR) Network, which aims to link the railway systems of 28 countries in Asia and Europe, is to go into effect today, moving Cambodia closer to establishing its first rail links with Vietnam.
"There's never been a rail line that connects Vietnam and Cambodia," said Paul Power, the team leader at the Railway Restructuring Project for Canarail who is working with the Cambodian government on this project.
The 2005 TAR agreement became enforceable 90 days after the eighth country, China, ratified the treaty. Cambodia, India, Mongolia, South Korea, Russia, Tajikistan and Thailand had previously signed the agreement.
In Cambodia, the main railway line, which requires intensive repair work, will run from Poipet to Sihanoukville with junctions in Bat Deng, in Kampong Speu, and Phnom Penh.
Another border station will branch off from Bat Deng to Kratie and then to Loc Ninh province in Vietnam.
Experts estimate that it would cost Cambodia US$700 million to build the rail lines. Efforts to upgrade have been in place since February 2008, when the Asian Development Bank announced a US$71 million loan package to restore and develop Cambodia's railway system.
Together with funding from Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Companies ($13 million), Malaysia ($2.8 million) and the Cambodian government ($15.2 million), the first phase of the project, which involves repairing Cambodia's existing railways, is not scheduled to be completed until 2012, reports said.
The project has been outsourced to Toll Holdings of Australia.
Despite the possibility of being behind the schedule with other signatory countries, Paul Power told the Post that the government is "completely committed" to the TAR agreement.