Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Cambodia Launches Rehabilitation Of Decades-old Railway System

February 18, 2008

SISOPHON (Cambodia), Feb 18 (Bernama) -- The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Royal Government of Cambodia here on Monday launched their joint project to restore the kingdom's decades-old rail traffic system, China's Xinhua news agency reported.

The new project will rehabilitate approximately 600 kilometres of track, and reconstruct another 48 kilometers near the Thai border that was completely destroyed during wartime, said an ADB press release.

ADB is providing US$42 million of concession loan for the project from its Asian Development Fund, it said.

The total cost stands at US$73 million, still with US$13 million of grant aid from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), US$15.2 million from the Cambodian government, and US$2.8 million of grant aid for iron materials from Malaysia.

"This is one of the last steps in the creation of a regional railway that will stretch from Singapore to Beijing," said ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda at the inaugural ceremony in Sisophon, near Cambodia's border with Thailand.

"Soon, trains will be running from Singapore to Sihanoukville," he added.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen also attended the launching ceremony.

In addition to supporting the repair of tracks and bridges, ADB is providing technical assistance to Cambodia to restructure the railway by appointing an international railway operator to operate, maintain and invest in the railway over the next 30 years.

Investing in rail upgrade, maintenance, and better service delivery will help revitalize Cambodia's railways, enhance internal commerce and international trade, reduce transport costs, and ease road traffic, said the ADB press release.

The railway rehabilitation project is a vital component of the Greater Mekong Sub-region's southern corridor, which links Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, it said.

Railway services in Cambodia are presently intermittent, and unofficial trolleys with bamboo floors operate along portions of the railway.

The 264-km Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville route and the 386 km Phnom Penh-Poipet route were built in 1960 and 1931 respectively.

They are the only two railways of the kingdom but will become part of the Asia railway network when the rehabilitation is over.

The network is expected to run 5,500 km, linking Singapore and China and including Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam en route.

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