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Expressway project ready to move

Motorists pass below signs in Phnom Penh marking the turnoff to the start of National Road 4.
Motorists pass below signs in Phnom Penh marking the turnoff to the start of National Road 4. Hong Menea

Expressway project ready to move

More details on a planned four-lane expressway to link Cambodia’s capital and principal seaport have emerged following a high level state visit by a Chinese delegation earlier this month, though the timeline for its construction has not yet been released.

The Cambodian government inked a draft concession agreement with listed state-owned Chinese Communications Construction Company Ltd (CCCC) last year to construct a 190-kilometre divided highway between Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville under a build, operate, transfer (BOT) framework. Transport Minister Sun Chanthol and CCCC chairman Liu Qitao signed the contract for the road’s construction during Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang’s visit to Cambodia last week.

According to the document, the expressway will run 190 kilometres with an average width of 24 metres. The paved road will have at least two lanes in each direction separated by a fenced garden and frequent pull-out areas for motorists to park and rest.

China is expected to cover the cost of the $1.9 billion infrastructure project, while recovering its costs through tolls charged on vehicles using the highway under the terms of its BOT concession agreement. Construction is expected to take four years to complete.

Va Simsorya, spokesman for the Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MPTC), said a start date for construction has not been set as an inter-ministerial working group is still studying the impact of the project on private property and homes along its length. He said the compensation package for affected landowners and residents could be massive and will not be covered by the Chinese government.

However, the benefits of the new expressway could be substantial.

Simsorya said the new expressway will offer shorter and faster travel times between Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville than the existing two-lane 230-kilometre National Road 4. The expressway’s flyovers will also remove 10 road intersections from the route, reducing both traffic delays and the risk of road accidents.

National Road 4 will not be dismantled and will continue to provide an alternate route to the toll expressway.

“The expressway will be constructed alongside National Road 4 with most of its length built to the [east] of this road,” he said.

According to Simsorya, the faster travel times on the new expressway will reduce freight transport fees and stimulate economic growth.

“This expressway and other infrastructure projects are necessary in order to increase national economic growth,” he said.

Cambodia will need 850 kilometres of expressways by 2020 at a cost of $9 billion, according to the government’s master plan for expressway development, which was drawn up in 2014.

In November 2015, Cambodia’s Globalcam Project Development signed a memorandum of understanding with South Korea’s Green Eco Energy to turn National Road 3 into an expressway. The government has also announced plans for a 130-kilometre-long expressway to connect Phnom Penh and Bavet to be built with Japanese funding.

Mey Kalyan, senior adviser to the Supreme National Economic Council (SNEC), said Cambodia’s exceptionally high transportation costs are the result of inadequate infrastructure and it is vital that the government invest early in projects to develop highways and other infrastructure as these works can take years to complete.

“Paved highways and other infrastructure projects are contributors to national economic growth and if we want to boost this growth rate we must first invest in developing the infrastructure,” he said.

Grace Rachny Fong, executive president of Century21 Cambodia, said she expects construction of the new expressway between Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville to drive up land prices along its route.

“In the future, land prices in Kampong Speu province could soar due to this area’s proximity to Phnom Penh,” Fong said. “Land prices and development in Sihanoukvillle will also grow.”

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