Prime Minister Hun Manet has instructed the relevant authorities to expedite studies into upgrades to the Phnom Penh to Preah Sihanouk railway line. He suggested that the maximum speed on the line should be increased to 80km/h, in order to expedite the transportation of goods and promote economic growth.

Manet met with more than 15,000 factory workers in the Cambodian Zhejiang Guoji Special Economic Zone in Prey Nop district, Preah Sihanouk province on November 7. The event marked his ninth such meeting after assuming the Kingdom’s top position in late August.

Minister of Public Works and Transport Penh Ponea and Deputy Prime Minister Sun Chanthol, first vice-president of the Council for the Development of Cambodia, attended the address.

“Let us put talk of a new express rail service to one side and discuss upgrades to our existing lines. Currently the maximum speed of our goods trains is 50km/h,” said Manet.

“If we can arrange to upgrade this speed to 80km/h, I will agree to a study into reducing the fees for using the railway to transport heavy goods. We all understand the difference between how much can be transported by truck and how much can be transported by train,” he added.

Manet envisioned a network of expressways which connect the east and the west of the country to Preah Sihanouk province.

“We are constructing a highway to Bavet and will connect Bavet, Phnom Penh and Kampong Som, that is from east to west, to develop the economy. We are also building a canal, will link to our fourth economic poll, around Pailin province. All parts of the Kingdom’s economic engine will be connected to Preah Sihanouk,” he said.

Manet introduced a new slogan, “if there is a path, there is a hope” to highlight how importance transport connections are, through the reduction of logistics expenses.

He also stressed the necessity of developing the deep-water port at Preah Sihanouk province, with financial loans and technical grant from Japan.

Heang Sotheayuth, spokesman for the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, could not be reached for comment on the proposed railway upgrades.

Royal Academy of Cambodia economics researcher Ky Sereyvath welcomed Manet’s suggestion to upgrade the rail network, as it will reduce transportation costs to and from Preah Sihanouk province. He also urged the government to accelerate its plans to upgrade the Phnom Penh-Poipet railway.

Currently, Cambodia has two railway lines, one of them completed during World War II. The 386km line from Phnom Penh to Battambang, which continues on to Poipet, was begun in 1929 and compleed in 1942. The second line, of 266km, from Phnom Penh to Sihanouk Autonomous Port was constructed from 1960 to 1969, according to the transportation ministry.

Both lines are currently still jointly operated by the ministry Royal Railway of Cambodia (RRC). They provide passenger and cargo services.