Cambodia: A stop for the Intra-Asia Railway

The abandoned Sihanoukville rail station waits for the train

Sihanoukville. Today’s generation know their railway and in some regions like in Battambang, the Bamboo Railway has become a very popular way of transport. [1 journeyman] But as for the train, it already seems something of the past. The main Cambodian roads are almost finished and cars can access these to the most distant provinces. You can travel from Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh City by bus – 746.28 kilometers in less than 20 hours, crossing the well-maintained Cambodian roads. But the return of the Cambodian train seems near, at least as it is planned by the intra-Asian railway – a project that intents to connect Singapore with China going through the territories of Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.The project is part of the ambitious Trans-Asian Railway Network [2] that would connect the huge continent with Europe.

Certainly, it would be of great benefit for countries, especially in rural areas where roads are less than muddy paths. Currently, Cambodia is rescuing its old railway, built during colonial times, but destroyed by long years of armed conflict and territorial divisions. The Asian Development Bank loaned Cambodia USD $73 million to reestablish the train, including a connection between the capital and the sea port of Sihanoukville. As a colony – that ended in 1953 – it was possible travel by train from Phnom Penh to Singapore.

But the intra-Asian railway in Cambodia needs to build a 257 kilometers missing segment between Cambodia and Vietnam, work that would cost USD $686 million, according to the Chinese Third Railway Survey and Design Institute study that was announced last Wednesday; Beijing has offered to contribute USD $500 million towards this effort. The missing segment, mostly in the Khmer territory, includes the Cambodian provinces of Kampong Speu and Kratie and the Vietnamese province of Binh Phuoc.

Segment of the Trans Asian Network showing the Cambodian-Vietnamese missing fragment that needs to be built