Skytrain to ease capital congestion

Skytrain to ease capital  congestion

To ease the capital’s chronic traffic congestion, especially at rush hours, plans are advancing to construct an elevated electric skytrain to link the city to Phnom Penh International Airport (PPIA). The bold vision would not only provide a congestion solution for the capital but also spur economic growth along the route. 

During a three-day visit to Japan in June, Prime Minister Hun Sen asked his Japanese counterpart to fund the USD800 million required to the complete the project. “Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has guaranteed a longer loan payback period with lower interest rates for infrastructure loans,” the prime minister told a crowd of graduating students in Phnom Penh in early August. 

Once completed, the skytrain service would offer another option to the cars and motorbikes clogging Phnom Penh’s main arteries. “The proposed skytrain has no driver,” Ministry of Transport spokesman Va Sim Sorya said. 

The Cambodia Daily reported Var Sim Sorya, as saying on 15 August that “the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) would send an expert team in the late of August to begin evaluating two or three possible routes”. The official, however, couldn’t comment on the timeframe of the feasibility study. JICA, however, said it would take one year to finish the study.

A number of discussions have taken place over the last two years following a preliminary study in 2014. Likely routes would connect Phnom Penh to the airport with a south-north corridor on Monivong Boulevard, and the east-west corridor passing Russian Blvd and a southwest corridor via Monireth Blvd.

Called the Automated Guideway Transit (AGT) line, the proposed electric skytrain would include more than ten stations and have a 3-car train capacity to accommodate 330 people. However, the constructor to develop the AGT line has not been announced. 

Royal Railways, a subsidiary of the Royal Group chaired by tycoon Kith Meng, holds a 30-year concession to operate the Kingdom’s railway network. The Cambodian government has granted the local conglomerate a concession to build a 10 kilometre railway linking the city to PPIA, and the project is expected to be completed in 2018.  “Upon completion, it will take 15 - 20 minutes to travel from within the city to the airport, and the train will be free of charge during its first month of operation,” Transport Minister Sun Chanthol said in July. 

Here in Phnom Penh, road traffic is getting worse by the day, and the news that a skytrain is to be built in the capital city will help facilitate the commute to and from the airport smoothly. “It can reduce traffic jams, which now mean that it can sometimes take one hour to reach the airport,” Undersecretary of State in charge of railways, Ly Borin said.  

More than 2 million vehicles commute on Phnom Penh’s streets, and the Cambodian government estimates that traffic jams cost the economy USD6 million per month, according to VOA which quoted from an official figure on 9 August. 

The skytrain is also seen as a landmark project for the upcoming SEA Games in 2023, and the project is scheduled to open before the largest ever sporting celebration in the kingdom.

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