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At least four firms sizing up Capital-Siem Reap Expressway

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Locals dressed in traditional Cambodian attire pose for photos in front of Angkor Wat. Hong Menea

At least four firms sizing up Capital-Siem Reap Expressway

At least four private companies are looking into a possible high-speed controlled-access highway linking the capital to the cultural and historical hub of Siem Reap province, following the official launch of the first-of-its-kind Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway in November, according to Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol.

Chanthol was speaking at a November 29 ceremony marking the inauguration of a solar-powered electric vehicle (EV) charging station with multiple kiosks at his ministry, and handover of a batch of electric motorcycles, cars and pick-up trucks, in all provided by the UN Development Program (UNDP), Shenzhen-listed BYD and another company identified as “EV Energy Tech Co Ltd”.

This revelation comes nearly three weeks after the minister signed a Framework Agreement for a Phnom Penh-Bavet Expressway between the government and China Road and Bridge Corp, the same company behind the expressway connecting the capital to Sihanoukville. Chantol mentioned then that the thoroughfare to Bavet is set to break ground in 2023 and be finished by end-2026 or early 2027 at an estimated cost of $1.638 billion.

Chanthol said that four unnamed companies had recently approached the ministry with intent to conduct a preliminary study on a new expressway from the capital to Siem Reap, but have yet to submit any results.

“I believe that in the future we will have a Phnom Penh-Siem Reap Expressway as well,” he proclaimed, commenting that a rather high degree of perceived political stability, on top of the confidence that Cambodia will make good overall progress, has drawn in a steady stream of investors.

Speaking to The Post on November 30, Cambodia Association of Travel Agents (CATA) president Chhay Sivlin said that a high-quality Phnom Penh-Siem Reap Expressway would offer a safer and faster option for travel between the two highly-visited localities, thereby providing impetus to the tourism sector.

The driving distance between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap town is roughly 290km at their closest points, whereas the great-circle (straight-line) distance is about 200km.

Sivlin remarked that the current “five-hour-long” trip between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap puts off a considerable portion of would-be travellers, and that the new road could inspire more holidaymakers to make the journey to Angkor Wat – the Kingdom’s top tourist site, which has deep religious and cultural significance.

The tourism sector “really wants to see this project come to fruition soon”, she added.

Pacific Asia Travel Association Cambodia Chapter (PATACC) chairman Thourn Sinan said Siem Reap’s popularity among Cambodian and foreign travellers could see a meaningful upsurge as a result of the proposed expressway.

And coupled with the Phnom Penh-Bavet Expressway, with terminus at the Vietnamese border, Angkor Wat would see a further increase in Vietnamese and other foreign visitors, he surmised.

“We in all sincerity welcome this expressway, since it’ll greatly increase Cambodia’s tourism potential,” he said.

Logistics and Supply Chain Business Association in Cambodia (Loscba) president Chea Chandara pointed out that the Siem Reap expressway would not only benefit tourism and reduce travel times, but also cut traffic congestion and make the journey easier.

“The expressway will be a big driver of tourism growth, taking into account that travellers flying into Phnom Penh or Siem Reap would be able to move between either destination more easily, and it could additionally be connected to Preah Sihanouk province,” he said, adding that the road would make life easier for the transportation sector.

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