The 117-kilometre Kampot to Phnom Penh railway stretch has reopened, with its first train departing on time, according to the head of railway commissionaire Toll Royal Railways.
“It’s the start of regular service,” said Toll Royal Railways CEO David Kerr.
Although service would initially be limited to freight, he said there were provisions for passenger service at a later date.
Ministry of Public Works and Transport undersecretary of state Yit Bunna said the inaugural train transported cement from a factory in Touk Meas district, Kampot province, to Phnom Penh on Friday.
The 117-kilometre railway largely straddled the existing lines, he said, and added the line from Touk Meas to Preak Sihanouk was expected to be completed next year.
Service will eventually consist of at least one train per day after it is completely renovated, particularly when work on the Touk Meas to Preah Sihanouk line are complete.
Businesses welcomed the newly reopened railway, saying it would help firms cut costs while making the roads safer.
Kampot Cement Factory Vice Chairman Khaou Phallaboth said it could be expensive to send goods by truck, and that rail lines would help reduce risk for regular commuters on the Kingdom’s roads, as there would be less interference from large lorries.
Cambodia represents the largest section of missing track on the planned Singapore-to-Kunming, China, rail line. The Asia Development Bank along with AusAID and Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Companies has committed US$141 million to restoring the Kingdom’s railways.
The 117-kilometre stretch of the 254-kilometre Phnom Penh-to-Sihanoukville South Line is the first section of Cambodia’s rails to reopen.
It will be followed by the 388-kilometre North Line from Phnom Penh to Poipet, and the 48-kilometre missing line between Poipet and Sisophon on the Thai border, according to Toll Royal Railway’s website.
Yit Bunna said work renovating the North Line should begin with the dry season, with the entire project wrapped up by 2013.
Plans call for Samroang Railway Station to be completed in March 2013, with larger containers marshalled at the station, and only shipments of smaller goods such as cement will arrive at Phnom Penh Railway Station, according to Yit Bunna.
Cambodia’s railways, built in 1929, were last upgraded in the 1960s.