As the Kingdom’s second expressway – from Phnom Penh to the Bavet town border with Vietnam – broke ground on June 7, an agreement for a third expressway from the capital to Siem Reap and on to the Thai border at Poipet town was also signed.

The framework agreement signing took place between Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), which will responsible for the construction.

Chanthol estimated that the 400km Phnom Penh-Siem Reap-Poipet Expressway would cost approximately $4 billion. The 250km from the capital to Siem Reap and the 150km from Siem Reap to Poipet will be two separate projects, although no timeline for their construction has been released.

During the June 7 groundbreaking ceremony of the Phnom Penh-Bavet Expressway and new bridge across the Mekong River, Prime Minister Hun Sen noted that the expressway is part of the project implementation of The Asian Highway Network project, which in the past remained only a dream, as the financing was unavailable. The network is now becoming a reality, he added.

“With the participation of the private sector, we are finally able to connect Phnom Penh with Ho Chi Minh City and Bangkok. This connection requires more than just roads – there is also a major bridge to construct,” he said.

He added that the original project would have been built entirely with Chinese investment to the tune of around $1.7 billion, but would result in both the expressway and bridge requiring tolls. The prime minister instructed that an alternative be found, so the Cambodian people could enjoy the use of the bridge for free.

“I discussed this with Minister of Economy and Finance Aun Pornmoniroth, and insisted that we find a way to build the bridge with our own money, so that our people did not have to spend money crossing the Mekong,” he explained.

Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony, public works minister Chanthol described how the Phnom Penh-Bavet Expressway will become one of the Kingdom’s economic lifelines. This is one of several important national infrastructure achievements that has been made across the country, he said.

The Phnom Penh-Bavet Expressway project has a total length of 135.10km, starting from Lvea Em district’s Thma Kor commune of Kandal province to Bavet town’s Chrak M’tes commune of Svay Rieng province.

This road passes through three provinces: 4.1km in Kandal, 70.9km in Prey Veng and 60.1km in Svay Rieng.

Prime Minister Hun Sen shakes hands with Chinese ambassador Wang Wentian at the groundbreaking ceremony of the Phnom Penh-Bavet Expressway on June 7. AKP

“This expressway links Phnom Penh to Bavet town. It will boost the volume of investment, trade and tourism in Phnom Penh and the new Arey Ksat town of Kandal province, as well as Prey Veng, Svay Rieng and Bavet towns,” said Chanthol.

“More importantly, it will accelerate trade, tourism and transportation between Cambodia and Vietnam,” he added.

Chinese ambassador Wang Wentian also attended the ceremony, noting that the new expressway – as well as the Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway which is already in operation – will improve international road networks in the region.

“This connection also contributes to the ‘golden economic belt’ between Phnom Penh municipal and Bavet town. It will become an important part of the transport traffic of the Indochina Peninsula across its eastern and western roads. It will boost Cambodia’s national economic development and connectivity in the ASEAN region. Moreover, it will play an important role in promoting the development of integration in Southeast Asia,” he said.

The bridge across the Mekong River will link Kien Svay district’s Dei Ith commune to Lvea Em district’s Thma Kor commune and link to the Phnom Penh-Bavet Expressway.

The expressway project is estimated to cost $1.35 billion under a 50-year Build-Operate-Transfer agreement. 20 per cent of the financing will come from the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) and the remainder will come from commercial loans.

The bridge across the Mekong will cost a total of $232.58 million, which will all be drawn from the state budget. The cost includes the clearance of landmines and unexploded ordnance, as well as the necessary taxes.

The two projects will be implemented by the CRBC, and are expected to be completed in 48 months, meaning they will be inaugurated in 2027.

Hun Sen also said that the capital’s $273 million third ring road will be officially put into use on June 30.