Passenger taxi boat traffic has dropped by about five per cent compared to the same period last year, despite the government providing free service for garment workers until next year, Phnom Penh Autonomous Bus Transportation Authority director Ean Sokhim said on Monday.
In 2018, the Phnom Penh Municipal Hall set up a public taxi boat service which travels from the capital’s northern Russey Keo district to Kandal province’s Takhmao town.
The route is operated by four boats and the journey takes 45 minutes.
Speaking to The Post, Sokhim said the service currently sees 200 passengers daily and cited several reasons for the decline in ridership.
“The main reason why the public boat service isn’t seeing as many passengers is probably because there are currently ample bus services available, and the road between Takhmao and Phnom Penh is well served,” he said, adding that more than half the passengers merely ride for leisure.
More than half the riders make use of the government’s fare-waiver programme, yielding lower revenue, he said. However, he did not disclose last year’s earnings.
In August, the municipal government announced that it will extend its city bus and boat taxi fare-waiver programme for workers until September 1, 2021. The programme, which has been in effect since 2017, was extended from its previous September 1, 2019 end date.
“[Prime Minister] Hun Sen has allowed the Phnom Penh Administration to continue not taking any fares from workers who travel by either city buses or boat taxis, but [they must] show their work IDs to the service providers.
“The move will increase living standards as well as reduce travel expenses,” read the announcement.
Aside for Saturday and Sunday, ridership may fall just below 10 passengers, says Bun Chan, a soft drink seller near the Takhmao port station.
Despite the boat trip being quick and easy, and free for workers, the option remains unattractive, she said.
“Some days I just don’t see anyone travelling. Those who come near the Takhmao station are just sitting, relaxing and enjoying the sights,” Chan said.
She said more people ride during weekends and holidays, though most travel merely for leisure. Scheduled departure times are also adjusted to accommodate more passengers.
A ticket sales staff member at the Takhmao station said ridership has suffered because many consider the boats unsafe, and having to obtain onward transportation is a hassle.
“They have to wait a long time to get on the boats because there are only four in operation,” the staff member said, adding that the fare is currently 2,000 riel ($0.50) for each trip.