Cambodia Considers High-Speed Railway Link with Thailand and Vietnam

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A Cambodian train running on the Phnom Penh-Poi Pet line is seen in the Cambodian capital’s central train station in September 2019. (Photo: State Railway of Thailand)

The Minister of Public Works and Transport, Sun Chanthol, has announced plans for a feasibility study to evaluate the possibility of constructing a new railway line that would run through Cambodia and link Thailand and Vietnam. 

According to The Phnom Penh Post, the proposed route would connect Poipet town in Banteay Meanchey province on the Thai border, Siem ReapKampong Thom, Kampong Chhnang, Phnom Penh, and Bavet town in Svay Rieng province on the Vietnamese border, with plans for trains to continue on to Ho Chi Minh City via Moc Bai

The study aims to enhance cross-border trade and improve Cambodia’s domestic transportation system. Plans for high-speed rail on the Northern and Southern Railway Lines have also been discussed, with potential speeds of up to 160km in an hour.

The new railway line could be a more cost-effective transportation option that improves Cambodia’s overall competitiveness in the manufacturing industry, the Minister Sun Chanthol said. 

He added,“ the railway line aims to help the transportation sector become more diverse, support Cambodia’s socio-economic development, raise income levels and improve people’s quality of life”.

The preliminary studies are afoot and that financing is still needed for the undertaking, he said. 

Cambodia’s railway system consists of two lines that operate from Phnom Penh: the Southern Line, which runs from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville, and the Northern Line, which runs from Phnom Penh to Poipet via Battambang. 

The first ever Cambodian railway was established during the French colonial era between 1929 and 1942, however the lines fell into disrepair during and after the Khmer Rouge era. However, they have since been restored for passenger and freight use. 

The current Cambodian railway is operated by The Royal Railway, which is owned by Neak Oknha Kith Meng. The company has an exclusive concession from the government to operate the railway network for 30 years.

Connecting Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Hun Sen met with French Trade Minister Olivier Becht to seek investment in high-speed rail, water, land, air, construction, energy, and other sectors. During the meeting, the Cambodian Prime Minister expressed his welcome to a 100 percent investment in the new high-speed railway from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City under the BOT (Build, Operate, Transfer) format.

Connecting Phnom Penh to Poipet, Thai Border 

Cambodia’s Ministry of Public Works and Transport has revealed plans to invest approximately $4 billion to modernize its existing northern Phnom Penh-Poipet railway, according to Xinhua news agency. 

The upgrade is expected to launch the country’s first high-speed rail system. The China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) has submitted the preliminary results of the feasibility study on the revamp of the Phnom Penh-Poipet railway to the ministry. 

The preliminary results indicate that the 382-km rail line will require an investment capital of more than $4 billion, including electric locomotives and carriages, and will take around four years to complete. The high-speed rail, which has a width of 1.43m, will be capable of reaching speeds of up to 160km per hour and will have a total of 33 stations and more than 300 overpasses along the route. 

Construction work on the rail project will primarily provide passenger and freight services between Cambodia and Thailand, as well as other countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

What Are Other Infrastructure Projects Underway in Cambodia?

In June 2023, Cambodia began construction on its second Chinese-invested expressway, which will connect the capital, Phnom Penh with Bavet City in Svay Rieng province on the border with Vietnam. The 135km expressway is estimated to cost US$1.3 billion.

Additionally, the cabinet has approved the construction of a canal project that will connect the Bassac River in Phnom Penh to the sea through Kampot and Kep. This project is expected to cost $1.4 billion.

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