The transport ministry is exploring options to expedite preliminary studies on key public railway infrastructure projects, especially the conversion of the Northern Railway Line that links to Thailand into high-speed rail.
Railway freight and passenger transportation has been pinpointed as a major potential engine of economic growth and employment opportunities and a magnet for inbound foreign investment into the Kingdom.
At a September 7 internal meeting of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, minister Sun Chanthol mentioned feasibility studies on modernising and upgrading the Phnom Penh-Poipet and Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville lines – also known as the Northern and Southern Railway Lines – to high-speed rail.
He also discussed metro, mo- norail and automated guideway transit (AGT) options for Phnom Penh, which aim to reduce traffic congestion in the capital. The minister had noted in April 2019 that of the three choices, a metro would be the most expensive, followed by an AGT system.
Ministry undersecretary of state Vasim Sorya told The Post on September 12 that these and similar railway-related projects are in the study phase and that many procedures must be completed before a practical time frame for construction and development work can be set.
After the studies are completed, there are still discussions with ministry experts, inter-ministerial meetings, and the procurement of partners in addition to a substantial amount of funds, he explained.
“The ministry is willing to speed things up for the study to be done as soon as possible, but everything takes time. The modernisation of the railway connecting Cambodia to Thailand is essential to prop up freight transportation as well as the tourism sector,” he said.
Logistics and Supply Chain Business Association in Cambodia (Loscba) president Chea Chandara commented that the transport sector seeks development in all modes – road, railways, waterways and air – to reduce costs associated with shipping. He noted that railways are a popular option for moving large and heavy cargo.
“More long and high-speed railways will not only make it easier to transport goods, but also increase the attractiveness for investors to come and invest in Cambodia,” he said, adding that an adequate railway system would provide better access to the international market for provincial products, and cut down on the number of heavily loaded trucks on the road.