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Bamboo train boosts incomes

Pav Suy / Khmer Times Share:
Visitors ride the bamboo train in Battambang province. KT/Mai Vireak

More than 20 kilometres from Battambang city, the bamboo train starts near the base of Banan mountain, on which sits an Angkorian temple, before ending four kilometres down the line in Chhoeuteal commune.

The tour train service, which was inaugurated late last year, has brought positive outcomes for local people and is set to be busy over Pchum Ben.

On Wednesday at its station, the bamboo train cars were waiting to be filled, mostly with Cambodians, because it was not a peak season for European visitors.

The service employs more than 70 personnel, with over thirty lorries running, and brings benefits to locals who run food outlets nearby.

Vith Lang, 18, who is both a driver and a conductor, said he is happy with his job.

“I am a ticket checker and driver and I get $187.50 (750,000 riel) per month,” he said. “I am from Svay Chrum district and have worked here for two months now.”

“I worked for a restaurant before this and I get a better pay now while the working conditions are also good,” he added while checking passengers’ tickets.

“There are 36 lorry drivers. This service has been operating for nearly a year now. Most of the workers here are from Battambang province. On weekdays, there are not many passengers but on Saturday and Sunday the lorries are packed,” he said.

He said that foreigners mostly use the service at the start of a year.

Mr Lang said the fare for Cambodian passengers is $2.50 and foreigners have to pay $5.

A round trip with five to six people takes about 45 minutes and covers a distance of eight kilometers, circling the scenic base of Banan Mountain with stops to allow passengers enough time to snap photos.

At the station, Pum Phy, 37, a lorry repairman, said he is one of two men who fix the bamboo train when there are problems.

“Before this I was a furniture maker in Battambang city and was contracted to make the seats for the lorries,” he said. “Then the lorry train manager asked me to work as a repairmen and I earn $400 a month.”

“Though I have to travel from home to work in Banan district, I can say my living conditions are better now,” he added.

Mr Phy noted that an average of 500 to 600 tourists, from Battambang, other provinces and also foreigners, use the train service daily.

Mr Phy said that the lorry train service employs more than 70 workers, and allows locals to make money by selling food to the tourists.

The building of the lorry line track last year was not a smooth ride. There were land ownership disputes and in February, a man blocked a part of the track with his lorry and claimed it encroached onto his land.

Soy Bora, the owner and manager of the bamboo train service, could not be reached for comment.

District Governor Chum Nhor said that the dispute has been resolved and notes that the train service provides jobs for locals and attracts tourists.

“We have already resolved the dispute and Mr Bora agreed to rent land, owned by others, which the track runs through,” he noted. “Because the service is popular among local and foreign tourists, we have just built a parallel track and will add more lorries to the present 36.”

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