After a slew of delays, it has been announced that the long awaited rail link between Cambodia and Thailand should be in business by the end of this year.
The Phnom Penh Post reports that the development comes about due to the imminent realisation of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) and the need for Asean member states to be better connected.
Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen visited Thailand in December 2015 – his first visit in a decade, according to The Diplomat – and both countries signed a memorandum of understanding regarding the completion of the rail line between the two capital cities.
The State Railway of Thailand will begin work on rehabilitating the six kilometres of track between Aranyaprathet station in Sa Kaeo to the border at Ban Khlong Luek, near Poipet, according to the Bangkok Post.
In the meantime, Cambodian railway officials will be connecting the missing tracks on their side, from Sisophon to Poipet, to reach the Thai border. Completion for this exercise is slated for mid-2016.
“After the connection is ready, we will discuss the procedures to have a train run across countries, but currently it is important to connect the tracks first,” explained Ly Borin, a spokesman for the Cambodian Ministry of Transportation
As well as the necessary resettlement of Cambodians living in the space designated for the railway, the local immigration office and three casinos will need to be relocated in order to make way for the tracks.
Although rail travel is an integral part of Thailand’s infrastructure, it will be a relatively new concept for the Cambodian masses and there will be measures taken to emphasise the benefits of trains – namely the fact that they’re lower cost, safer and able to move goods better than other transport – to the population.
There had long been a rail connection between the border towns of Aranyaprathet (Thailand) and Sisophon (Cambodia), but the internalist policies of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia in the 1970s inevitably saw to the end of this.
A project to link the two capitals by rail was funded by the Asian Development Bank all the way back in 2010.
However, various delays – including the fact that the proposed plans did not meet the necessary safeguards as regards resettling affected Cambodian citizens – had ensured the project was kicked into the long grass. Until now.
Featured image is by Clay Gilliland and used under a Creative Commons licence