A 60-KILOMETRE stretch of Cambodia’s long-delayed railway from Phnom Penh to the Thai border in Poipet has been completed, Transport Minister Sun Chanthol said.
The comments came during a logistics forum hosted by the European Chamber of Commerce in Phnom Penh, during which Chanthol gave brief introductory remarks about the status of transport infrastructure in Cambodia.
After listing several construction projects currently in the works, Chanthol made a show of checking his watch before announcing that significant construction on the long-awaited railway to the Thai border was “completed today”.
Va Sim Sorya, director general at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, confirmed the completion of 60 kilometres of track between Poipet and Mongkol Borey, a district in Banteay Meanchey south of provincial capital Sisophon.
The Sisophon to Poipet segment was originally scheduled to be completed by mid-2016, but was pushed back several times due to legal hurdles, persistent rain and land disputes.
“From now on, the train can be operational from Poipet to Mongkol Borey, as the construction of [this section of] railroad is fully completed,” he said, though he added that passenger trains were not yet running and he wasn’t sure when they were set to begin.
The completed stretch is one phase of construction, part of a much longer planned track stretching from the Thai border to Phnom Penh. According to Sim Sorya, the government plans that track to eventually carry passengers from the kingdom’s capital to Bangkok at an average of 40 to 60 kilometres an hour.
The ministry has been working on construction of the proposed rail line in segments: first, from Poipet to Mongkol Borey, which was recently completed; second, Mongkol Borey to Battambang; third, Battambang to Pursat; and last, Pursat to Phnom Penh.
“We expect the railroad connecting Pursat to Phnom Penh will be completed in June of this year,” Sorya said, adding that much of the last segment of track would be renovated rather than replaced.
Ngor Mengchruon, deputy governor of Banteay Meanchey province, confirmed that the railway was already being used to deliver goods. When asked when the railway would open to passengers, Mengchruon said to “wait for the inauguration”.