With the last section of the railroad expected to enter into service in early July, the restoration of the western rail line will be complete ahead of the general elections in July 29, the Minister of Transport said yesterday.
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The western rail line, which connects Phnom Penh to Poipet city in the border with Thailand, is being reconstructed after it was destroyed during the country’s civil war.
The new railway line is expected to play a key role in facilitating trade and the movement of people between Cambodia and Thailand, with leaders from both countries having publicly committed to tripling bilateral trade to $15 billion by the year 2020.
Speaking at the launching ceremony for the railroad section stretching from Battambang to Pursat province, which became operational on Monday, Minister of Transport Sun Chanthol said the final two sections, from Pursat to Bat Deng, and from Bat Deng to Phnom Penh, will be ready for service in early July.
“We are gathering here today to celebrate the restoration of our rail line, a result of the country’s development, political stability and high economic growth,” the minister said.
“On July 4, we will officially launch the renovated western rail line, a railroad that stretches for 388 kilometres. The completion of this railroad will make it possible to connect our country to Thailand by train.
“Cambodians will soon be able to get on a train in Sihanoukville Autonomous Port in the south, travel to Phnom Penh, and from Phnom Penh go to Pursat, Battambang, Serey Sophorn, Poipet city and, finally, Thailand,” said Mr Chanthol.
The minister said that the Cambodian and Thai rail lines have already been connected, but that it has not yet been publicly announced because officials still need to negotiate some minor details.
“We have not announced anything yet because the official agreement is not ready.”
“The memorandum of understanding is almost finished, with only a few minor points that we still have to agree upon.
“When the agreement is signed by both parties, the prime ministers of both nations will get on a train together on cross the border,” he said, adding that the public launching of the connection will take place before July.
The first section of the western rail line, connecting Poipet and Banteay Meanchey province’s Serey Sophorn, was inaugurated in early April, while the section stretching from Serey Sophorn to Battambang was put into service later that month.
The restoration of the western rail line will come at a cost of nearly $97 million, of which $13 million will be financed with a loan from the Asian Development Bank.