Cambodian and Thailand yesterday reconnected their railroad networks after more than 40 years since they were separated, with both governments expecting it will improve transportation and boost trade.
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The inauguration ceremony was presided over by both heads of state, Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Thai counterpart Prayut Chan-o-cha, who also attended the signing of an agreement on cross-border rail transportation.
The Stung Bot-Ban Nong Ian Friendship Bridge was also inaugurated, aiming to facilitate cargo transportation between the two countries.
“The agreement today on joint railway traffic, and the connection of our railroads again after they were separated in 1974 due to the war, will improve railroad transportation, which is an effective, cheap, and safe transportation method,” Prime Minister Hun Sen said at the ceremony.
“The connection plays an important part in the development of the economies of Cambodia and Thailand and helps improve connectivity with other Asean and Greater Mekong Subregion countries.
“The railway from Phnom Penh to Poipet has been restored by the Cambodian government. We now have a vision and a specific plan to develop the railroad network in Cambodia and to increase its popularity among Cambodians,” Mr Hun Sen said.
During yesterday’s ceremony, Thailand donated a diesel multiple unit (DMU) to Cambodia. A DMU is a multiple-unit train powered by on-board diesel engines, which requires no separate locomotive. It has been manufactured by Japan’s Hitachi and comprises four carriages, each able to carry 80 passengers.
To mark the connection, the prime ministers, accompanied by high-ranking officials, boarded the train together and travelled from Klong Luek station in Thailand to Poipet across the border.
Sun Chanthol, the Minister of Public Works and Transportation, told reporters at the event that bilateral trade will increase as a result of the connection.
“I firmly expect that trade between the two countries will increase. The connection of our railroads will facilitate cargo transport and make it cheaper,” Mr Chanthol said.
Cambodia and Thailand now trade about $6 billion worth of goods a year.
According to Cambodian officials, the Stung Bot-Ban Nong Ian Friendship Bridge will be used exclusively for cargo transport.
“The opening of this new bridge marks a new page in the history of relations between Cambodia and Thailand, and will enhance cross-border trade between the two countries,” Mr Hun Sen said.
“This bridge will bring many benefits to Cambodians and Thais, facilitating transportation within the Greater Mekong Subregion, from Bangkok to Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City, for trade and tourism,” Mr Hun Sen said.
For his part, Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said the new bridge will boost cooperation in other sectors, including culture, education, and agriculture.
Mr Chan-o-cha said the bridge is a great achievement for the two countries and a gift the two governments offer to their people and to all people in Asean.
Cambodia now has two railways – the southern railway, linking Phnom Penh with Preah Sihanouk in the coast, and the northern one, connecting the capital to Poipet city.