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Railways set for expansion

Railways set for expansion

Cambodian railway management and operations are to be opened up to the private sector

after a major overhaul to attract investors.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has begun a feasibility study to examine how the

rundown, under-performing railways department can be split up and restructured into

a more competitive enterprise, said Sun Chantol, Minister of Public Works and Transport.

Before this can happen, however, the country's rail network needs to be under full

rehabilitation in order to attract an investment partner.

"We need this study completed before we start looking for a suitable partner

through international bidding," Chantol said.

A new rail link between Phnom Penh and Loc Ninh in Vietnam is being planned, with

the Chinese Government pledging $1 million for a feasibility study into the estimated

$300 million project.

This, and the replacement of a 48-kilometer, destroyed link between Poipet and Sisophon,

would form part of a trans-ASEAN railway from Kunming province in China, to Singapore,

Chantol said.

ADB transport specialist Anthony Jude acknowledged that attracting investment in

Cambodia's railways will be difficult with the present structure and inefficiencies,

and it was important to show a commitment to upgrading the network.

Chantol said a $15 million rebuild of the Poipet-Sisophon link was Cambodia's first

task. The Malaysian government has pledged to donate 106 kilometers of used track,

and has been asked for a concessionary loan.

Restoring the link would allow cheaper movement of more freight between Thailand

and Cambodia and take heavy truck pressure off National Road 5, he said.

The next priority for the government will be an overhaul of the Sisophon-Phnom Penh

and Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville railway lines, totaling 600 kilometers.

"The objective is to increase average train speed to 60 kph, reduce derailments-there

were nearly 40 in 2002-and get containers to the port in eight hours instead of eight

days," said Jude.

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