Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol led a group of 300 students to visit the Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville expressway construction site on April 26 to educate them on some of the finer aspects of high-quality road construction built to internationally-recognised technical standards.
While leading the tour, he responded to concerns raised by the public about the expected tolls imposed on those who drive on the road. The minister said the government would request that the companies that invested in the road charge a reasonable price for Cambodian people to use it.
“We have not discussed the cost of travelling on the road yet, but we will discuss it because if the price is too high then no one will use it and they will use the free roads instead. But if it’s too cheap, then the investors cannot get returns on investment,” he said.
Chanthol said the prices charged in various other countries for using an expressway is typically between 10-12 US cents (400-500 riel) per kilometre.
However, Cambodia has requested that the investors keep the toll under 10 cents per kilometre and the company was still considering this request, according to the minister.
He concluded that if the toll is set at less than 10 cents per kilometre, the total cost of using the entire 187km expressway would come to more than $18.
He said that the Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville expressway construction was 90.95 per cent complete as of April 22, with the entirety of the road set to be completed in July.
The expressway will contribute to the economic development of both Phnom Penh and the coastal province by providing a means of faster transportation that will reduce travel times and traffic accidents on National Road 4.
The government has announced that Preah Sihanouk is to be turned into a multi-purpose special economic zone (SEZ) and a large amount of development resources are now being focused there.
The route is heavily used by commercial transport because of the deep-sea port located in Sihanoukville and the need to move cargo to the capital and other provinces.
The students were from the Techo Sen Institute of Public Works and Transport (TSI). Their tour was also accompanied by a group of Buddhist monks and other public works officials. The visit was meant to showcase high-quality road construction as part of the “Made by Khmer” theme.
“Our ancestors built temples lasting for hundreds of years that are famous across the world such as Angkor Wat and Preah Vihear, both of which are listed as World Heritage Sites. They also constructed stone bridges lasting for hundreds of years, so yes, Cambodians can do it,” he said.
According to the ministry, the expressway is being developed by China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) through Cambodian PPSHV Expressway Co Ltd. Technical inspections for quality control are overseen by Minconsult Sdn Bhd.
The total cost of the expressway is around $2 billion – funded by the CRBC under a build-operate-transfer (BOT) plan that will allow CRBC to recoup its investment via tolls, but with the road eventually transferred back to government control once the contract’s conditions are met.
“The Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville expressway is the first expressway project and the most important strategic route in Cambodia. It will reduce the time spent for travel from Phnom Penh to Preah Sihanouk from five to just two hours, thereby reducing all other logistics expense,” the ministry said.