Cambodia revives passenger trains

Cambodia revives passenger trains

Motorcyclists wait while a Royal Railways of Cambodia passenger train moves through a crossing in Phnom Penh en route to Sihanoukville on Saturday. (Kyodo photo)
Motorcyclists wait while a Royal Railways of Cambodia passenger train moves through a crossing in Phnom Penh en route to Sihanoukville on Saturday. (Kyodo photo)

PHNOM PENH — Passenger train services resumed in Cambodia on Saturday for a limited period following a 14-year suspension because of poor railway conditions.

A train with nearly 200 passengers on board left Phnom Penh station at 7am for an eight-hour, 264-kilometre trip to a popular beach resort in the southwestern coastal province of Sihanoukville.

John Guiry, CEO of Royal Railways of Cambodia, said the resumption was "part of an initial phase to try the service to see if it is popular". If demand is good, services will be provided regularly, he said.

Royal Railways is offering the service between Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville for nine days to coincide with the Cambodian New Year holidays, with a train leaving the capital at 7am every day until April 16 and another leaving Sihanoukville at the same time from Sunday to April 17.

The trains will make two stops at passenger-ready stations in Takeo and Kampot provinces. A one-way ticket costs $6.

Guiry said the train services were expected to reduce heavy traffic congestion during the Khmer New Year.

The air-conditioned three-wagon trains travel at average speeds of 30 to 40 kilometres per hour. By popular demand, two extra wagons equipped with only fans were added on Saturday.

Khun Sotheara, a 26-year-old employee of a travel agency, said it was the first time he had ever taken a train and added that he is "proud of and satisfied with the train service".

Because of neglect and damage from the long civil war, railways in the country were in a dilapidated state and all services had been suspended by 2009 for rehabilitation.

In 2009, the government gave a 30-year concession to Royal Railways of Cambodia to operate the railway network. It has been operating freight-only services between Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville since then.

Cambodia has a railway network covering a total of 612km, consisting of two lines built by the French colonial government. One is the Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville route, and the other connects Phnom Penh with Poipet on the Thai border.

A six-kilometre section linking Cambodia with Thailand has not been maintained for years. Successive Thai governments have vowed to restore the "missing link" as part of an Asean plan for greater rail connectivity.

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