Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Rail network revamp closer

Rail network revamp closer

Rail network revamp closer

Railway officials have confirmed that several projects are in the pipeline to restore

the country's dilapidated rail network and its redundant steam trains.

Among those likely to go ahead is a bid to rehabilitate the "severely damaged"

Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville line, said Sokhom Pheaka-vanmony, director of Cambodian

Royal Railways.

He said a delegation from Japan's Railway Technical Services recently undertook a

second visit to the country to assess the feasibility of repairing the line.

"We hope to receive a grant from the Japanese government," said Pheakavanmony.

"I believe Japan will not abandon this project."

The first visit by the team to examine the crumbling rail infrastructure took place

in 1999. That was followed by a grant request to the Japanese government for $11.4

million.

The money, said Pheaka-vanmony, would pay for the first phase of the project, which

would involve repairing the 50 kilometer stretch between Sihanoukville and Kampot,

including restoring six damaged bridges.

Cambodia's railways were badly damaged in the 1980s and 90s, when the Khmer Rouge

regularly ambushed trains and destroyed rail lines.

As part of a separate French-backed project, the country's redundant steam trains

and passenger carriages will be restored with the help of a six million euro grant

pledged by France. In the past ten years the country has switched from steam trains

to diesel, which are cheaper and more reliable.

"That study was completed and we are waiting for an answer from the French government

on the grant," said Pheakavanmony.

Chief of planning at the railways, Nhek Thivuth, said rehabilitating Cambodia's railways

was essential to complete the regional rail link revived at the recent ASEAN conference

in Brunei. That would allow passengers to travel uninterrupted from Singapore through

Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam to China and beyond.

Thivuth has attended several meetings in Malaysia in the past year to discuss the

topic. He said predictions showed that cargo and passenger transport carried by rail

would increase in the future.

"During the meetings we talked about the condition of the railways in our country,"

he said. "We also discussed what should be done to deal with illegal immigrants

at border checkpoints."

ASEAN's project to link the nations was discussed at a separate meeting in Vietnam

earlier this year. Thivuth said the project would require building a new track 255

kilometers in length linking Kampong Speu with Vietnam. That, he said, would require

the assistance of foreign aid or a loan.

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