Chinese officials have pledged to bolster Cambodia’s railway infrastructure, according to local media reports.
National news agency Agence Kampuchea Press (AKP) reported yesterday that an agreement was made following Preah Sihanouk Provincial Governor Kuoch Chamroeun’s request for Chinese aid in developing the province’s railroad infrastructure.
Cambodia’s existing 264 kilometre-long Southern Line connects the coastal city with Phnom Penh, as well as with Kampot and Takeo provinces. The current railway supports cargo shipments to Phnom Penh at a speed of 40 to 50 kilometres per hour.
Representatives from the Preah Sihanoukville provincial office were unable to elaborate further on the nature of Chamroeun’s request and what the project will entail.
Vongsey Vissoth, secretary of state for the Ministry of Economy and Finance, last year announced the government’s ambition to develop Sihanoukville into a “second Shenzen city”.
Shenzen’s Urban Planning and Design Institute has already developed a master plan for Sihanoukville to emulate the Chinese manufacturing and export hub’s model, according to state-run China Daily newspaper.
Plans to develop it into an industrial and logistics centre would bode well for the Kingdom’s economic prospects, which rely heavily on the Preah Sihanouk Autonomous Port (PSAP) for the import and export of goods.
PSAP, the Kingdom’s only deep-sea port, processed more than 1.7 million tonnes of cargo during the fourth quarter of 2020.
China has already committed nearly $2 billion for the development of the Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway under the Belt and Roads Initiative. The expressway is meant to help bolster the Kingdom’s logistics infrastructure and better connect the region via the Asian Highway 11.
A World Bank assessment in 2018 said that “railway transport in Cambodia faces challenges, that range from the limited provision of required infrastructure to weak logistic service capacity”.
The report highlighted that volumes remain low, with some 3000-4,000 containers transported to PSAP via the railway each month.
“Railways should be an important mode of freight transport in Cambodia givenfactors including the low level of theft and pilfering on freight trains, the guaranteed transport and handling times and dry port services,” the report said.