Planned Phnom Penh sky train proposal derailed

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The proposed sky train from Phnom Penh’s Central Market (Phsar Thmey) to the Phnom Penh International Airport has been derailed due to the high costs, the Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MPWT) confirmed last week.

AGT sky train project Phnom Penh

In a report from the Khmer Times, Vasim Sorya, MPWT’s spokesman said that “after the result of a feasibility study on the AGT (Automated Guideway Transit) sky train project, conducted by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the government has decided to delay the project because the cost is far higher than expected.”

One of the main reasons behind the high cost is the impact on people living around the project.

Sorya could not reveal the total costs or if the plan would still proceed and added that the government is still studying the situation and may look for public-private partnership investment to make it happen.

Previously, Minister Sun Chanthol had hinted that the 18-kilometre sky train will cost between $800 million and $1 billion. In 2018, the Japanese government had agreed to fund the project but it’s unclear if that is still the case.

In September 2019, the Royal Government of Cambodia said it had planned to spend a total of 1.843 billion US dollars to build the ‘skytrain’ style light with the project to start in 2020.

The (AGT) development project would be about 19 kilometres long, 15 kilometres of which are air-light rails, and the remaining 4 kilometres subway which would include 18 light rail stations and 2 subway stations. The studies were commissioned to have the development ready for Cambodia hosting the Southeast Asian Games in 2023.

It’s how the costs would have changed between September 2019 and mid-2020 if the studies findings had already been approved.

AGT sky train project Phnom Penh
AGT sky train project Phnom Penh – an artist impression of the station.

There were also discussions of having the sky train link between Phnom Penh and the SEA Games main venue at the Morodok Techo National Sports Complex on the outskirts of the capital which now seemingly won’t go ahead.

The current shuttle train between the Phnom Penh Royal train station and the Phnom Penh International Airport is also under threat, with the Transport Ministry considering temporarily discontinuing the shuttle train service due to falling ridership, the Ministry said in July 2020.

Phnom Penh traffic congestion

Two further studies by Chinese firms are undergoing to look at easing congestion in Phnom Penh. These include the construction of a monorail and a metro. The studies started in May 2018 and at the time were said to take up to two years to complete.

In 2018, the Japanese government sent a shipment of 140 medium-sized, brand-new city buses to help alleviate traffic congestion in Cambodia’s capital. China had also sent 100 busses in 2017.

In May, 2020, plans were also announced for new bridges and tunnels to help address the growing traffic problem in Phnom Penh, while a new heavy vehicle terminal is being planned to be built on the outskirts of Cambodia’s capital by a Chinese firm, China Good Cars Holding Ltd.

The number of newly registered vehicles in the Kingdom in 2019 totalled 640,183:

  • 15,956 heavy vehicles
  • 92,958 cars
  • 531,269 motorcycles

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