Cambodia is moving to build its historic high-speed train system connecting Phnom Penh and Poipet city, northern Cambodia’s Banteay Meanchey province that shares a border with Thailand, using a concessional loan from China.
The result of a feasibility study conducted by the China Road and Bridge Corporate (CRBC) was discussed in a meeting chaired by Sun Chanthol, Minister of Public Works and Transport, on Monday.
The study showed that the historic high-speed distance is 382 km in length with an estimated cost of $4 billion, around 14.8 percent of the country’s gross domestic product in 2021.
To be headed by an electric driven engine, the maximum speed will be 160 km per hour, the ministry said, adding that the construction will take four years.
The ministry pointed out that at least 33 stations are in the plan to be built along the track, which will be renovated on the existing track, which was once rehabilitated under assistance from the Asian Development Bank.
Chanthol agreed in principle to the feasibility study income, saying that he would submit the result to the discussion at the inter-ministry level with the Ministry of Economy and Finance by end of this month.
The meeting will discuss the feasibility and conditions of project implementation, as well as request further recommendations for a detailed and comprehensive study process towards the implementation of the high-speed rail project in the near future, he said.
“The project to upgrade the northern Phnom Penh-Poipet railway to the high-speed railway is aimed to serve the transportation sector, and promote socio-economic growth, especially in the provinces and cities located along the track,” the ministry said.The project focuses primarily on international passenger and freight services between Cambodia and Thailand, as well as passenger and freight transport from Phnom Penh to Poipet, passing through Kandal, Kampong Chhnang, Pursat, Battambang and Banteay Meanchey provinces.
“The project will be the first standard high-speed rail in Cambodia and will be a major passenger and freight line in the country and abroad,” stated the ministry.
The ministry granted the CRBC to conduct a feasibility study of the high-speed train on January 6, 2022, following the firm’s proposal made on December 17, 2021.
The government asked the Ministry of Economy and Finance and the Ministry of Public Works and Transport to accelerate the study of the construction and renovation of the high-speed train from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville and from Phnom Penh to Poipet City by developing the existing tracks.
The government said the high-speed train is to serve the transportation sector to be more diversified, which would further boost the socio-economic development of the country, increase income and raise the people’s standard of living.The high-speed train project is among the various project proposals that Prime Minister Hun Sen will discuss with Chinese leaders during his scheduled visit to Beijing on February 10.
“We need to seek assistance for new projects from China for the development of Cambodia during my visit in the near future. Among them, we may prepare the high-speed train project as we already have existing railroads but they cannot be used efficiently and economically,” he said on January 16.
Lim Heng, vice-president of the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce, expressed hope that the new rail would be able to connect with neighbouring countries’ railways, enhancing regional connectivity.
“First step, we want to have the rail connection inside the country, and then if we can make the rail connection with Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam, it would be better to boost the economy by carrying passengers, tourists, and agricultural products,” Heng told Khmer Times.
Cambodia now has two rail lines – the southern line, connecting Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville, and the northern one, linking the capital with Poipet. The trains are mostly served in freight as they attract fewer passengers’ attention to the carriages.
Royal Railway, a subsidiary of the conglomerate Royal Group, manages and operates the railways under a concessional investment.
The current trains run at a maximum speed of only 30 km per hour.