Royal Railway Plc, a member of Royal Group of Companies Ltd (RGC), is joining forces with three other companies to develop unutilised plots of land alongside 300km of railway tracks, with a focus on renewable energy (RE) and agriculture.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed to this end at an April 28 ceremony between RGC, Samaiden Energy (Cambodia) Co Ltd, Management Venture Asia (Cambodia) Ltd, and Panna Energy Sdn Bhd involving a feasibility study for the development of the land, spanning from Poipet to Preah Sihanouk province.

The project focuses on micro ground mount solar installations, utilities, and facility infrastructure for rental, and aims to promote sustainable economic activities such as paper tree planting as well as soybean and greenhouse vegetable farming.

RGC vice-president of strategy and investment Paul Clements presented the project – the result of “many months” of discussions – as a great opportunity to develop the land, and affirmed its potential focus on RE and agriculture, domains that he believes will help build the country.

The ensuing partnership, to be guided by experts in these two fields, is expected to unlock new economic opportunities for the RGC – an active energy producer in Cambodia – and its partners, as well as support small local communities through agricultural development, he said.

Samaiden Energy Cambodia executive director Fong Yeng Foon said the firm – a local affiliate of Kuala Lumpur-listed Samaiden Group Bhd – is “encouraged by the Cambodian government’s support and initiatives towards RE and its commitment to help its citizens earn higher income through projects such as the development of land alongside Royal Railway’s tracks”.

He told the ceremony that the feasibility study would cover the development of RE facilities and related infrastructure along with sustainable agricultural technologies and farming practices, affirming that the project would benefit the domestic market in commercial and consumer terms as well as sustain the real economy.

Development of the land will promote access to agricultural technologies, and clear the way for new RE sources, helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet future energy demand, Fong added.

Construction of the Cambodian railway system began in the late 1920s, with the northern and southern line, according to the Ministry of Public Works and Transport.

The 386km-long northern line from Phnom Penh to Poipet – the latter of which borders Thailand – was built between 1929 and 1942, during the period of French colonial rule.

The southern railway was built from 1960 to 1969, during the Sangkum Reastr Niyum era, under the leadership of then-Prince Norodom Sihanouk, and with assistance from France, West Germany and China. The line spans a total of 264km.

Both railway lines were severely damaged – with some parts completely destroyed – during the Democratic Kampuchea regime, after which they were rebuilt and rehabilitated through collaboration between the transport ministry and Royal Railway.