The Phnom Penh government recently announced the provision of free bus services on a first-come, first served basis to the provinces during the Khmer New Year week.
The plan will see 120 buses deployed to “transport civil servants, armed forces personnel, garment workers, students et cetera” on the Kingdom’s national roads, according to the municipal hall statement dated Friday.
The buses are set to run from April 12-18 and will start their journeys from multiple departure points in and on the outskirts of Phnom Penh from 5:30am, once their seats are filled.
Departure locations are near the Mercedes showroom on Hun Sen Boulevard for destinations along National Road 1 and 2, such as Prey Veng, Svay Rieng, Kandal and Takeo; in front of Century Plaza Market for stops along National Road 3 and 4 in Kampot, Kep, Kampong Speu and Preah Sihanouk; and near the new Freedom Park in Russey Keo district for Kampong Chhnang-, Pursat-, Battambang- and Banteay Meanchey-bound buses set to travel along National Road 5.
Buses serving Kampong Thom and Siem Reap will depart from the Chroy Changvar Tep Machar roundabout on National Road 6, near the Chroy Changvar Bridge.
Other destinations such as Kampong Cham, Tbong Khmum, Kratie and Stung Treng will be served by buses leaving from in front of Royal Railway Station.
Sorn Pisey, a van driver who ferries passengers from Phnom Penh to Prey Veng province, said he wasn’t concerned about the potential impact of the free buses.
“The buses only transport them [passengers] to designated stops . . . they’d have to take a motodop or tuk-tuk upon arrival to reach their final destination."
“Therefore, the journey would still be money and time-consuming. Taking a van, on the other hand, is faster because we can drop them off right in front of their house,” he said.
Hang Kosal, another driver, echoed similar remarks but added that all van drivers, including him, would increase fares during the holidays.
“Most people will only leave Phnom Penh for the provinces, not the other way around, therefore I have to charge more.”
Despite the availability of free buses, Dos Sarath, who works at a private company in Phnom Penh, said he would travel to his hometown in Kampong Speu by motorbike as he is reluctant about leaving his vehicle at his rented house.
“If I had no motorbike, I would go by bus.”
A student at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, Man Panha, said he would travel to his hometown in Takeo province by bus.
“Travelling by bus is more economical, comfortable and safer. There are so many drunken people driving without obeying the traffic rules.”
In addition to the long-distance bus services, the municipal government also announced the deployment of 115 of the city’s public buses and four boats to ferry passengers across Phnom Penh at no charge for the same period.
The free bus initiative was first implemented for last year’s New Year’s holiday. Prime Minister Hun Sen announced the repeat of free services on Thursday because he said he could not prevent private bus companies and taxi firms from increasing prices during Khmer New Year.
“I don’t want to talk about the same issue with owners of bus and taxi companies. I’ve spoken with them many times in the past."
“I appealed to them not to increase prices during Khmer New Year and Pchum Ben. Some listened but some did not, so we have to release our buses,” Hun Sen said.