The Cambodia-Japan Friendship Bridge – also known as Chroy Changvar Bridge I – was reopened at a cost of $30 million on Wednesday morning, after being closed for more than a year for repairs and renovations.
The reopening ceremony was held on Wednesday and presided over by Prime Minister Hun Sen and Japanese Ambassador Hidehisa Horinouchi.
The prime minister used the occasion to express his thanks to the government and people of Japan for helping build and develop the Kingdom, before urging Cambodia’s road users to obey the country’s traffic laws.
“You must understand and forgive each other. And above all, you must firmly respect the law, traffic signs and traffic lanes so that we can all travel safely,” he said.
Chroy Changvar Bridge I crosses the Tonle Sap river and connects the capital’s Daun Penh and Chroy Changvar districts. The bridge is 971m long and 13.8m wide, and was built in 1963 through an unconditional grant from the Japanese government.
It was severely damaged in the civil war period, with large portions destroyed in 1972 and 1973 after Khmer Rouge forces sowed it with landmines. This necessitated the use of ferries until 1996, when the bridge was reopened after repairs by Japan began in 1992.
The bridge was renamed the “Cambodia-Japan Friendship Bridge” by King Father Norodom Sihanouk.
The current renovation project was initiated after a Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) team discovered cracks in the bridge’s support pillars.
In late 2017 the government decided to close it for repairs with Japanese financial aid.
“Over the past 30 years, Japan has been providing support to Cambodia from its initial peace process through the subsequent reconstruction and to economic development.”
“The Japanese government has provided about $3.9 million by fiscal 2018 as Overseas Development Assistance [ODA],” said Hidehisa Horinouchi, Japan’s ambassador to Cambodia said in late March.
Satoshi Adachi, supervisor of Central Consultant Inc, a Japanese firm providing consultancy services for the project, said it would have been risky to simply patch up the five-decade-old bridge and put it back into service. Instead, a comprehensive renovation had been carried out.
“The tools and equipment used on the bridge repairs have been imported from Japan,” he said. “Some of the machinery, such as the tower crane and spray painting machine, is the same state-of-the-art equipment used in Japan,” said Pal Oudong, a civil engineer at Central Consultant.
The renovations had been planned to be completed later this year, but due to the efforts of Japanese and Cambodian teams working day and night, they were finished ahead of Khmer New Year. The bridge reopening will help ease traffic congestion over the holiday period.
The repairs to the bridge cost around $30 million through unconditional Japanese government aid, said Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol.
“With much attention and great effort from Japanese and Cambodian engineers, the bridge has been repaired to a high standard. According to Japanese engineers, the bridge can be used for another 50 years,” he said.
Chanthol said that to raise awareness of lane use on the bridge, road markings delineate the motorbike and pedestrian lanes.
However, just hours after the bridge’s reopening, drivers were seen ignoring the markings, he said.