Representatives from Cambodia and Thailand yesterday agreed to a 2013 completion date for a railway link from Phnom Penh across the Cambodia-Thailand border crossing at Poipet.
Outdated agreements had delayed the project, Thai officials said. Insiders have also said disagreements over cross-border trade have kept the Thai side from full commitment.
Cambodian delegate Vasim Sorya and a Thai delegate informally agreed to the date at the 32nd ASEAN Senior Transport Officials Meeting yesterday. An official list of delegates—including the Thai official—had yet to be released.
“Thailand is ready to sign on this,” Vasim Sorya, the director-general of administration at the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation, said on the sidelines of the meeting.
Although Cambodia's North Line lacked 48 kilometres of track between the Thai town of Sisophon and the Poipet border crossing, Thailand needed only six kilometres of rail, including a bridge, to complete the line, he said.
Delays in finalising the project had been caused by outdated agreements between the two countries, Voravuth Mala, of the State Railway of Thailand's marketing department, told the Post yesterday.
“The original draft of the agreement was too old. It needed to be updated,” he said, adding that trade and territorial disputes had never been a factor in the delay.
Thailand was updating and standardising its rail agreements with Cambodia and other regional countries such as Malaysia, Voravuth Mala said.
Disagreement over cross-border trade agreements may have also delayed Thai commitment, Toll Royal Railways CEO David Kerr said yesterday, but yesterday's statements from the two delegates were a promising step, he said.
“If both parties are committed, [the project] certainly could be deliverable by that time,” Kerr said, adding that the original goal for completion of the rail line in Cambodia had always been 2013.
Toll has a 30-year exclusive concession to operate the Cambodian Railway Network once completed.
The 388-kilometre North Line also needs 338 kilometres of rehabilitation between Phnom Penh and Sisophon.
A feasibility study by a Chinese company had shown the rehabil-itation of Cambodia's railways would cost about US$600 million, Vasim Sorya confirmed.