The railway line connecting Phnom Penh to Poipet in Bantey Meanchey province and further on to neighbouring Thailand will be fully operational in 2018, with officials on both sides of the border saying it will be pivotal in bolstering trade between Cambodia and Thailand.
“The new line from Phnom Penh to Poipet city is expected to be completed next year, well ahead of our previous deadline, which was 2020,” said Sun Chanthol, the Minister of Transportation.
“Now we are speeding up work on this line to have it ready by 2018, so we can have a railway connection to Thailand.”
The line, generally referred to as the western rail line, has 130 kilometres that still need to be built or repaired, with the ministry seeking $20 million in funding from the national budget through the Ministry of Economy and Finance, according to Ly Borin, an under-secretary of state at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport.
Mr Borin also said that if their request for funds is approved, the project will be awarded to a private company through a bidding process.
The section of the line in disrepair, damaged during wartime, extends from Pursat province to the capital, Mr Borin noted, adding that other sections of the western rail line have been fully repaired and are ready to carry trains.
The western rail line is one of only two railway lines that exist in the kingdom. The other one, connecting Phnom Penh to Preah Sihanouk province in the coast, is already in service.
The Phnom Penh-Poipet rail line is expected to play a key role in facilitating trade and the movement of people between Cambodia and Thailand, with leaders from both countries having publicly committed to tripling bilateral trade to $15 billion by the year 2020.
Mr Borin could not provide a tentative date for an official launching ceremony for the new line, but said it will probably take place early next year.
He added that officials on both sides of the border are already working on setting up the protocols and systems for the crossing of people and goods at the border.