Official talks future of traffic

A traffic policeman directs cars and SUVs
A traffic policeman directs cars and SUVs along Norodom Boulevard last year in Phnom Penh. City Hall has said the increase in cars on Phnom Penh’s roads is to blame for traffic congestion. Vireak Mai

Official talks future of traffic

City Hall has revealed its three-pronged plan to tackle the chronic congestion on Phnom Penh’s roads, by reducing second-hand vehicle imports, introducing more one-way roads and changing the working hours of government employees.

With more than 400,000 cars and a million motorbikes on the capital’s streets, City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said congestion is a “big problem to deal with for the development of Phnom Penh”.

He said the municipality was “studying those [three] visions” with the aim of submitting them to the government for consideration.

“If we change the working hours [of government staff], would the officials find it hard to contact each other? That is what we are still looking into.”

The spokesman added that while these are “future visions”, the municipality has already taken steps to tackle congestion, by constructing new overpasses and roads, and ordering large trucks to travel only at unsociable hours.

Ear Chariya, an independent road safety consultant, said the planned approach “could be a good solution” but should go further.

“They should also manage the [working] times of other people too. Government staff could start at 7, other people in the private sector could start at 8, and students later,” he said.

Chariya added that “the demand of the people” would make it difficult to reduce car imports, and suggested that City Hall instead focus its efforts on “improving public transportation”.

Pily Wong, vice president of the Cambodian Automotive Industry Federation and CEO of Hung Hiep (Cambodia), the Kingdom’s Volkswagen distributor, agreed that making reductions in a notoriously “grey market” could be difficult.

But, he said, if the government was dedicated to the idea, it would be achievable.

“Limiting the importation of second-hand cars would be a good thing . . . it would reduce congestion, reduce pollution, and reduce the number of casualties” in accidents, he said.

However, Chariya said the plan could have the opposite effect.

“Congestion is actually limiting the number of accidents, because people are driving slower,” said Chariya.

With as few as 10 per cent of Cambodians behind the wheel in possession of a licence, he said the government should better enforce the law to “make sure people are safe and respect the road and each other”.

My Sovann, media project manager for Urban Voice Cambodia – a crowdsourced mapping project where city dwellers can report traffic jams – agreed.

“Traffic congestion and traffic accidents will keep increasing if the traffic laws are not enforced,” he said.

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