Bangkok-Cambodia by Train Soon a Reality

A new rail connection is due to enter into service by the end of the year linking Bangkok to Cambodia via Aryanaprathet/Poipet. A direct link to Phnom Penh is still to be completed at a later stage…

A new rail connection will bring together Thailand and Cambodia with the perspective to go direct from Bangkok into Poipet bu the end of the year. Cambodia’s Minister of Public Works and Transport, Sun Chantholis giving assurance that the 6.5 km of new railway line linking the border city of Poipet in Cambodia to Aranyaprathet district in Thailand. The refurbishment of the existing train track from Aranyaprathet city in Thailand to the border with Cambodia has already been completed. Bangkok is already linked twice a day by trains to Aranyaprathet, both cities being linked in five hours and a half on average.

The 6.5 km of railway track is a significant step in the shaping of the ambitious Pan Asian Railway Network which is due to connect one day the Asian continent by rails. Resuming train services between the Kingdoms of Thailand and Cambodia together is a major achievement as rail links have been severed since the 1970s, when Cambodia sunk into war. The link between Sisophon and Poipet was even destroyed by Khmer Rouge to isolate the region.

While Poipet will be connected again to Thailand rail network, what will happen to the 380 km remaining tracks between Poipet and Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh? The Northern Rail Line was built during the French colonial time but decades of neglect took their toll on the infrastructure. The rehabilitation of the section between Phnom Penh and Sisophon includes the repair and strengthening of tracks as well as the repair and reconstruction of bridges and culverts.

To be added is the 42 km section of the missing link from Sisophon to Poipet, completed already back to 2012 and part of the plan to fully re-establish the rail connection between both capitals. The Sisophon-Phnom Penh line has been partially renovated and the Ministry of Transport in Cambodia indicates that the line could be completed by 2017. However uncertainties linger over the Northern Line completion as Cambodia failed to convince to get more funds from foreign donors while the Asia Development Bank indicated last year not to provide more loans for further rail projects.

According to Cambodia daily, the Khmer Times, a new customs and immigration terminal is planned at the Poipet International Border Gate. This is to cater to an expected increase of foreign tourists when the railway linking both countries is completed by the end of the year, highlighted Cambodia Minister of Tourism Thong Khon last week.The new terminal will be built early next year and plans have already been approved by relevant ministries and government departments. The new terminal will help speeding up visa and customs procedures for foreign travellers entering into Cambodia.

In the longer term, the Northern Rail Line would connect at Bat Doeung Junction (40 km North of Phnom Penh) to another rail line planned to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. Bids for the project have been launched. China and Japan already expressed their interest to participate in the construction and financing of the future rail link.