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Trains collide en route to capital

A passenger and freight train crashed into each other in Sihanoukville province yesterday. Photo supplied
A passenger and freight train crashed into each other in Sihanoukville province yesterday. Photo supplied

Trains collide en route to capital

Three people suffered slight injuries after a passenger train crashed into a stationary freight train carrying petroleum in Preah Sihanouk on Saturday, in what police attributed to a brake failure - a claim flatly denied by the Royal Railways company.

The accident comes just a week after King Norodom Sihamoni and the Queen Mother travelled by train to Sihanoukville for New Year’s Day, and in the wake of a freight train derailment in Kandal in late November.

Uong Vuthy, Veal Renh commune police chief, said the train transporting oil had pulled over at a sub-station in Veal Renh commune, Prey Nub district, to let a Sihanoukville-bound train pass through, when another passenger train bound for Phnom Penh rear-ended it.

“The passenger train hit another train from behind and caused damage to one carriage of the train carrying oil, and the head of the passenger train was damaged as well,” Vuthy said.

“Both trains belonged to the same company, which is Royal Railways.”

Train attendant Sau Sophal, 38, received only minor injuries in the crash, as did two foreign passengers who did not give their names to police.

According to Seng Chamroeun, Prey Nub district deputy police chief in charge of traffic, the incident occurred at 9am.

Chamroeun said according to the train operator, Yu Kemsan, 50, the crash was partly caused by technical difficulties.

“I had slowed down, but the rail is on a slope and the brake of my train did not work well and caused the accident to happen,” Chamroeun quoted Kemsan as saying.

However, Royal Railways Cambodia CEO John Guiry denied there had been any issue with the brakes.

“It’s certainly nothing to do with brake failure,” he said yesterday. “Absolutely we’re concerned [about this], it’s not the image we want and it’s not right. We spend a lot of time putting safety measures in place.”

Guiry said he was compiling a report from GPS data and video footage of the crash, but was unable to be reached last night to provide the exact reason for the crash.

Both Chan Samleng, director of the Transport Ministry’s railway department, and ministry spokesman Ly Borin said they had not yet received an official report from the company explaining the accident’s cause.

“We will wait for the report from Royal Railways about the reasons of the crash if the accident was caused by the brake problem, we will urge the company to fix the problem to ensure the safety of our passengers,” Borin said.

Ho Vandy, of Cambodia’s National Tourism Alliance, said the latest crash on the passenger line - which restarted after a long hiatus last year - was “a very big concern for tourists and for the passengers”.

“Even a small crash gives a bad image the train just started to operate, so why did this happen?” he said. “We would like to see the strengthening of the safety and security on board; this is a priority.”

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