The Ministry of Public Works and Transport has announced that it will offer free train rides for passengers from September 23 to 26 to celebrate the Pchum Ben festival. The railway carriages are in addition to the free-of-charge public buses which will transport more than 10,000 people per day, according to a recent ministry announcement.
“On the occasion of the upcoming festival, the ministry, in collaboration with Royal Railways, will offer four days of free train travel. Tickets will be distributed two days before the departure dates – at all stations – from 7am to 5pm,” it said.
One train line runs from Phnom Penh to Kampong Chhnang, Pursat and Battambang provinces. The second leaves the capital and passes through Takeo, Kampot and Preah Sihanouk.
On September 12, Prime Minister Hun Sen instructed Phnom Penh Capital Hall to examine the possibility of free bus transport to prevent an increase in taxi fares and alleviate the burden of travel expenses of people during the Pchum Ben festival.
Following the announcement, the Phnom Penh Capital Administration has prepared 175 buses to transport people to their hometowns for free for 5 days from September 23 to 27. 120 vehicles are ready to transport people from Phnom Penh to the provinces, while 55 vehicles will serve the capital.
The buses which will travel on National Roads 1 and 2 will depart from Samdech Techo Hun Sen Blvd, in front of Mercedes-Benz Cambodia. Passengers who will travel on National Roads 3 and 4 can catch one at Sanctuary Plaza Station. Passengers who want to travel on National Road 5 to Battambang, should meet at Russey Keo Park Station and those going to Banteay Meanchey should wait at the Chroy Changvar Roundabout. The buses that will travel to Kampong Cham, Tbong Khmum, Kratie and Stung Treng will depart from in front of the Royal Railway.
Khly Norak, head of administration at state-run Citybus, told The Post on September 19 that Capital authorities have prepared a detailed schedule and that his drivers were ready to ensure a problem free Pchum Ben for the public.
“The buses are ready to roll – we are just waiting for the departure dates to come. Please be informed that we will not be issuing tickets. People who wish to ride on the buses should come to the departure points, where our coordination teams will arrange for them to board,” he said.
Norak added that the buses are capable of carrying more than 10,000 passengers per day and he hoped that the generous offer would reduce the costs – and risks – associated with travelling.
Executive director of the Cambodian Affiliated Network for Social Accountability San Chey supported the provision of travel services on the occasion of major national festivals, saying that it helped people who lack resources and are unable to travel. However, he suggested the government should have a plan prepared for transport at the final destinations of the buses.
“Many of the final destinations of the people travelling will be villages and communes that are far from national roads. This could be a challenge for some travelers. It will also be interesting to see if many factory workers decide to use the buses – there are a lot of them,” he said.