8 December 2016: Today the Khmer Times, Cambodia’s leading English language news outlet, reported that Cambodia’s Minister of Public Works and Transportation, Mr Sun Chanthol, announced that the rail link between Thailand and Cambodia was due to be completed by the end of 2016. Which means in 22 days time.
The New Railway Line Has Been a Long Time Coming
There has not been a tail link between Cambodia and Thailand since the 1970s. Relations between the two countries have been strained and only recently have these two countries (both members of ASEAN) started to cooperate. This rail project to link the two countries is part of the larger effort to create the Pan Asia Railway Network linking to China to all mainland ASEAN states.
Train Stops at Poipet
The new track is only 6.5 km long. It will go from Aranyaprathet in Thailand to Poipet in Cambodia. The longer term plan to bring the existing railway line from Poipet to Phnom Penh back into service thereby creating a rail link between the capital cities of the two countries: Bangkok and Phnom Penh. This second half of the plan is going take more time with the Minister Sun Chanthol reporting delays on restoring section of the track between Krong Serei Saophoan city and Battambang province and then onto Phnom Penh. Basically the majority of the existing railway and the Minister estimates a $17 million dollar investment is required to complete the work.
Slow Progress is Still Progress
It is going to be a few years until it will be possible to get a train from Bangkok direct to Phnom Penh but the linking of the two countries is a massive step in the right directions. The more railway track is up and running the more likely investment is to come rolling into. Royal Railways, the organisation in charge of Cambodia railways nationwide, needs to keep going step by step, a kilometre of track at a time, more the railway network in Cambodia becomes a viable mass transport option.