Cambodia and Thailand will be linked by a railway by the end of 2016 as planned, according to senior official, but some sections of track from Phnom Penh to Banteay Meanchey province remain unrestored.
Minister of Public Works and Transportation Sun Chanthol said this week that the official railway link will be made by the end of this year.
Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Thai counterpart Prayut Chan-o-cha agreed to get in a train together to cross the border at the official inauguration ceremony, according to Mr. Chanthol.
However, sections of track from Banteay Meanchey province’s Sisophon town to Battambang province and from Battambang to Phnom Penh remain unrestored and renovation is costly, Mr. Chanthol said.
To restore the poor track conditions in the northwest, Mr. Chanthol said in May that an estimated $17 million was needed.
“We hope that by the end of this year the railway line from the border with Thailand to Sisophon will hopefully be completed. Step-by-step we will restore the remaining rail track from Sisophon to Battambang and from Phnom Penh to Battambang,” he said.
The ministry has a limited budget to implement the project, Mr. Chanthol added.
“We have a small portion of the budget for building roads and bridges. This year the Ministry of Economy and Finance allocated $20 million for restoring the railway in the northern part [of the country], but it is not enough. We have to do it step-by-step.”
The agreement to link railways between the two countries was made by Mr. Hun Sen and Mr. Prayuth in late 2015 and aims to boost trade and travel. It is hoped it will boost bilateral trade to up to $15 billion by 2020.
Mr. Chanthol said that the rail link from the northern part of the country and the already operating Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville line would improve efficiency of the logistics sector as road transport fees are relatively high, hurting efficiency.
May Kalyan, a senior advisor to the government’s Supreme National Economic Council, was optimistic the rail link will attract investors from Thailand to Cambodia because it will be cheaper to transport goods.
“When the railway is in operation, it will boost efficiency of the transport of goods and agricultural products with low transport fees,” he said.
The railway between Poipet city and Sisophon is part of the eastern corridor of the rail link between Singapore and China’s Kunming province that will eventually connect all of Asean.
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