The section of the western railway line linking Poipet in Banteay Meanchey province to Battambang is now ready to be tested after the train stations were connected on Tuesday, with trial runs likely to happen before Khmer New Year, according to the Cambodian transport minister.
Speaking at the nation’s first official logistics forum on Tuesday, Minister of Transport and Public Works Sun Chanthol also announced that Thai counterparts have finished work on the section of the line that runs in Thailand, from Aranyaprathet district in Sa Kaeo province to Bangkok, the Khmer Times reported on Thursday.
He added that is now time to test the section of the railway that goes from Poipet to Battambang through Sisophon, with test runs already scheduled to take place sometime before Khmer New Year in mid-April.
“We are ready to test passenger trains on the tracks that connect Poipet and Battambang before Khmer New Year,” Chanthol said.
The southern section of the line, from Battambang to Phnom Penh, could be completed as early as July, he said.
“We are working hard to complete the western rail line. It will be finished by July or by end of this year the latest,” the minister said, adding that 130 kilometres in this part of the line still need to be repaired, which will cost the government US$20 million (626 million baht).
Book Laychy, director of Banteay Meanchey’s commerce department, said the railway station in Sisophon is too small to handle large cargo, but announced the government is building a new one to facilitate the movement of freight.
“Once the final section of the line is ready, the cost of transport will be significantly reduced,” Laychy said. “Currently, exporters spent about $25 per tonne to transport cassava by land to Sihanoukville.”
Chanthol acknowledged during the logistics forum that the high costs associated with the local transport sector is one of the major barriers to the industry’s development, but assured attendants that his ministry, in cooperation with the private sector and development partners, is hard at work to bring down prices.
He said the new logistic master plan, which should be ready next month, will help bring down prices and increase the efficiency of the country’s transportation network.
“We are working with the customs and tax departments, ports and every stakeholder in the sector to eliminate unofficial fees and lower the cost of transportation,” he explained.
The western rail line is one of only two railways that exist in the kingdom. The other one, connecting Phnom Penh to Preah Sihanouk province in the coast, is already in service.
It is expected to play a key role in facilitating trade and the movement of people between Cambodia and Thailand, with leaders from both countries having publicly committed to tripling bilateral trade to $15 billion by the year 2020.
Trade between both countries was valued at $5.5 billion in 2017, a 10% increase year-on-year.