Thailand will provide a train engine to Cambodia for the Thai-Cambodia Railway Link. Although more details about this transaction remain unclear, this “gift” will definitely be a much needed boost to the Cambodian side, as financial woes continue to plague the railway project.
First mooted in 2015 between Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Thai counterpart Prayut Chan-o-cha, the railway is part of efforts to boost trade and travel between both countries. According to The Khmer Times, both countries hope to boost bilateral trade by up to $15 billion by 2020. Cambodian authorities hope that the ease and convenience of train travel will help attract more Thai investors to Cambodia. It will also help the government to achieve its target of exporting one million tons of rice and other agricultural products as the cost of transportation is expected to be much lower.
The Thai-Cambodia Railway link is expected to be completed by the end of this year. Nevertheless, the dates of the inauguration have yet to be announced. King Sihamoni is expected to take the train later this month, in an effort to boost publicity and encourage the popularity of train travel.
Railway development in Cambodia has been plagued with both infrastructure problems and safety issues. Safety precautions along the train tracks still leaves much to be desired, with reports of accidents involving motor vehicles crashing into trains and people sleeping on the tracks. The cross-country rail service that linked southern coastal cities such as Sihanoukville to the capital Phnom Penh only recently resumed operations after 14 years of disuse, a result of destruction during the civil war. Even today, sections of the track from Phnom Penh to the northwestern border province of Banteay Meanchey remain unrepaired.
Eventually though, the railway link will form part of the eastern corridor of the pan-ASEAN rail link between Singapore and China’s Kunming province. As the rest of ASEAN powers ahead with rail development plans, Cambodia still needs all the help it can get.