23 January 2018: Today’s Bangkok Post reported that the Station Master at Aranyaprathet Railway has confirmed that the 6.5 km stretch of line between Aranyaprathet station and Khlong Luek is now operational. Khlong Luek is right on the border with Cambodia and only 850 metres from Poipet railway station Cambodia.
Train to Nowhere
The problem is, however, that this 850 metre stretch of track is taking a long time to complete. The original plan was to refurbish this 850 metre stretch of train line, which has been out of use since the 1970s, by the end of 2016. This never happened despite very rapid advancements in relation to other part of the railway network, particularly the reopening of the train line from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville in April 2016. The Government of Thailand has offered financial assistance and the gift of a train to Royal Railways of Cambodia to get the project going. The problem appears to be complex. Local people are protesting about the railway line as no doubt are the transport operators who shuttle people between Aranyaprathet in Thailand and Poipet in Cambodia will lose a lot of business. Poipet is popular with Thai visitors who cross the border to visit the casinos in Poipet. Gambling is illegal in Thailand, but permitted in Cambodia.
Bangkok to Phnom Penh train by 2020
The Western railway line from Poipet to Phnom Panh is currently refurbished and, unlike the 850 metre stretch of railway from Poipet to the border with Thailand, is being rapidly rehabilitated and the latest information we have is the stretch of railway between Phnom Penh and Battambang is now ready for use by passenger trains. The forecast is that (ahead of schedule) the remaining 130 km of railway track that needs to repaired between Battambang and Poipet will be completed by the 2018. Cambodian Premier Hun Sen confirmed his vision that a direct train from Phnom Penh to Bangkok would be operational by 2020 on the 10th January 2018 at the Mekong summit in Phnom Penh. There is train available, the track is on course to be completed from Phnom Penh to Poipet, the track from Bangkok to the border is operational, all the train stations are in place and the only obstacle left is the 850 metres of track from Poipet railway station to border with Thailand.