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PHNOM PENH – Preliminary plans to transform the existing Phnom Penh – Poipet railway into a high-speed railway with electric trains were unveiled on Jan. 23. Studies estimate such an upgrade will cost more than $4 billion.
The transformation of the railway will allow trains to travel at 160 kilometers per hour, compared to 60 kilometers per hour on the existing one.
The project will be the first-ever high-speed railway in Cambodia, making cross-province journeys easier and boosting the economy.
The plans were presented on Jan. 23 by the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) to the Ministry of Public Works and Transport.
CRBC has become one of Cambodia’s major transport infrastructure partners over the years: It has built and operates the country’s first-ever expressway, linking Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville, and has plans to build another one, from the capital city to the border town of Bavet.
With a length of 382 kilometers, the construction of the new Phnom Penh – Poipet railway is believed to cost $4.489 billion and would take four years.
Although the new road line will follow the same track as the existing one, the old rails will be entirely removed. A new infrastructure will be built from scratch, with standards allowing heavier trains of greater capacity to travel at a speed of up to 200 kilometers per hour. The new rails will be 1.435 meters in width.
The train will cross 33 stations along the way, among which 19 stations are planned to be finished in the short term, while the other 14 stations will be built in the longer term.
While the Phnom Penh passenger station will remain in the same place, along Monivong boulevard, a new station will be built in the capital’s Dangkor district for the transportation of goods.
On 300 locations, the railway will be elevated a few meters above the ground to avoid traffic accidents.
It will be a single-line rail, provided with a technology system for train traffic management to avoid any accidents, which will set specific transportation schedules.
The project of upgrading the Phnom Penh – Poipet railway to a high-speed railway will ease the transportation of both passengers and goods between Cambodia and Thailand. The trains will stop at stations located in Kandal, Kampong Chhnang, Pursat, Battambang, and Banteay Meanchey provinces.
Heang Sotheayuth, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, said the date to start the upgrading works has not been set yet as the project is still in its first stage.
There are a lot of factors to consider before the construction, but the ministry will decide on it as soon as possible.
So far, it is not yet known who will finance or who will operate the new railroad.
The Transport Ministry will discuss the CRBC plans with the Ministry of Economy and Finance – a meeting is scheduled on Jan. 30 – and will see with the government if there should be any changes to ensure that the safety and economic factors will be attentively considered, Sotheayuth said.
He added there was no detailed information about whether the electric trains would be provided by the company or purchased by the government.
Reconnecting Cambodia and Thailand by rail line has been a long-standing project by both countries.
A small portion of it reopened in 2019, allowing cross-border journeys between Thailand and Cambodia.
The railway near Poipet city had been shut down for 45 years because of damages in 1973, while the rest of the track to Phnom Penh had been suspended for over a decade due to its poor condition.