Cambodia: Government pushes for high-speed railway

The Cambodian government has pushed for upgrading the existing railway system to a high-speed railway, building new railway lines domestically, and connecting the tracks to neighbouring countries.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said this yesterday at an inauguration ceremony of 38 roads and other physical infrastructure in Siem Reap City, Siem Reap province.

The existing two railway lines are traditional, running at a maximum of 30 km per hour and cannot support the transportation needs, the Prime Minister said.

He assigned Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol to work with the private sector to upgrade the existing railway lines to high-speed ones.

“We are now considering upgrading the existing two railway lines which run at a speed of 20 to 30 km to the high-speed railway,” the Premier said.

He said that the new rail lines would be built to facilitate goods transport and people mobilisation and connect the rail tracks with rail lines in neighbouring countries.

The Kingdom has two rail lines, which started in the French colony era. The tracks were repaired and renovated before resuming service for rail freight only in 2010.

The passenger service started eight years later.

The Northern Railway has a length of 386 kilometres from Phnom Penh to Poi Pet (Cambodia-Thailand border) and was constructed and functional between 1929 to 1942. The Southern Railroad was built between 1960 and 1969 and had a total length of 264 kilometres.

Royal Railway, a subsidiary of the conglomerate Royal Group, manages and operates the railways under a concessional investment.

Sin Chanthy, president of the Cambodia Logistics Association, applauded the move.

“It would be better if the domestic railway could function with speed and activity,” Chanthy said.

“The existing railways cannot be used for goods transport. Compared to main road transport, the railway transport is slow, and transportation is seemingly not active, limited routes used to lift in and off goods from trains,” Chanthy said on Monday.

“If the railway system is faster and better, rail transport will increase because the railway fares are relatively cheaper than road transport. Besides, there will be less traffic congestion and road accidents,” he said.

The government is studying the possibility of a train from Phnom Penh to Bavet town, the Cambodian-Vietnamese international border checkpoint.

The study, started before pre-Covid-19, was conducted by a Chinese firm, the China Railway International Group Co Ltd. But the ministry said the result of the study has not yet been submitted.

In the northern rail road, Cambodia officially linked the rail track to Thailand’s rail track in 2018. But cross border railway transport has not been made since then.