A key rail link between Thailand and Cambodia could be completed by the end of 2016, The Phnom Penh Post quoted Cambodian local officials as saying Monday.
Cambodia and Thailand have long sought to complete a railway line connecting them which would boost tourism and business. For Cambodia, the link would be part of a broader rehabilitation of its rail system, much of which was destroyed during civil war beginning in the 1970s. And for Thailand, it would serve as another project within the current government’s ambitious infrastructure plans.
On January 3, according to The Post, Cambodian tourism minister Thong Khon paid a visit to the construction site of a new rail line in Banteay Meanchey province with just six more kilometers of track to be laid. On the Cambodian side, the link runs from Sisophon – the capital provincial city of Banteay Meanchey – to Poipet which is on the Cambodia-Thailand border.
Poipet governor Ngor Meng Chroun said that three local casinos as well as a local immigration office would have to relocate parts of their establishments to make way for the link. Their relocation, he clarified, was not up for debate.
“This is not something those companies or the immigration officers should negotiate or refuse, because they have known that their buildings were located close to or on the railroad territory,” he said.
On the Thai side, the State Railway of Thailand is rehabilitating track from Aranyaprathet station in Sa Kaeo province to the border at Ban Khlong Luek which is opposite the town of Poipet on the Cambodian side.
Expediting the construction of rail links has been the subject of bilateral discussion between the two countries of late, including during Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen’s historic visit to Thailand last month – his first in a decade. During that historic visit, Cambodian transport ministry spokesman Ly Borin had said that his government would concentrate on finishing the missing link of track from Sisophon to Poipet, and that the provisional completion date for it was mid-2016.
Once that is completed, contractors are expected to run test services on the line and collaborate with Thai counterparts to launch services running all the way from Phnom Penh to Bangkok. However, as with other railway projects in the Mekong subregion, it remains to be seen whether this will occur as anticipated and on time. Previous efforts to establish a railway link between the two capital cities have foundered due to a range of problems.