Cambodia announces eight expressways

To ease traffic and boost the nation’s economic growth, Cambodia has announced the construction of eight expressways connecting the capital Phnom Penh to various destinations.

Unlike the national roads, expressways are specially designed for high-speed and long distances. Entrances and exits are limited to interchanges and there are no stop signals. They have four or more lanes with a median division that allows for safe and smooth traffic. Travel time is greatly reduced compared to ordinary roads.

Among the planned eight expressways, Local Globalcam Project Development Ltd won contracts from the government to build six, Globalcam representative Mot Sochoeun told Construction and Property Magazine in mid-August. 

The first 120km long expressway will link Phnom Penh to Takeo leading to Phnom Din (Cambodian-Vietnamese Border). The second 166km route will connect Phnom Penh to Kampot’s Prek Chark district bordering Vietnam; the third 376km highway will connect Banteay Mean Chey towards the Poipet border. The fourth will link Phnom Penh to Siem Reap at 375km long, while the fifth will link the 522km from Phnom Penh to Steung Treng. The sixth will shorten the distance from Phnom Penh to Ratanakiri leading to Vietnam border to just 385km. 

According to Globalcam, the Phnom Penh-Steung Treng route heading to the Lao border will be the first expressway of the six to be constructed. “The route will be open for construction in mid-September, will take five years to finish and open to traffic sometime in 2022,” he said, adding that 1km of expressway is worth USD4 million in construction costs. 

The route, Sochoeun said, is made possible through a joint venture between Globalcam and Malaysian-based Mahdi Holdings Investment. The JV was signed between the two firms at a ceremony held in Phnom Penh in July 2017, where they announced the USD5 billion investment in the 522 km expressway.

Despite the news being announced, the government seemed to be unaware of such rapid progress on the route. Va Simsorya, spokesman from the Ministry of Public Works and Transport declined to comment on the announcement that the two firms’ consortium would open construction for the Phnom Penh-Lao border expressway this year, explaining that the company hadn’t provides any updates to the ministry regarding the progress on this or other routes that it had received concessions on from the government.

The Phnom Penh- Sihanoukville expressway will be the second route to be constructed by end of this year. Stretching 190km long and 25 metres wide with two lanes, the expressway is worth about USD1.9 billion.  Mr. Va Simsorya indicated that the project wasn’t divided into separate construction phases but declined to reveal the contractor or developer behind the project, besides stating it is a private Chinese firm. 

During the One Belt and One Road infrastructure talks in Beijing in May, the chairman of China Communications Construction Mr. Liu Qitao confirmed to Prime Minister Hun Sen that his company would invest in this expressway project.

The Phnom Penh-Bavet expressway was the first to be approved for a feasibility study led by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in 2015. The route will be re-studied by the JICA team again, spokesman Va Simsorya told Construction and Property Magazine. “In the last two months, the government decided to assign JICA to work on the freeway again as the price they proposed before is very high.”

Since the route is under further study, Mr. Soriya was not able to provide further details on the schedule of the project.

Based on the previous study proposed by JICA, the construction of the Phnom Penh-Bavet route will be implemented in three phases; Phnom Penh-Neak Loeung, Neak Loeung-Svay Rieng and Svay Rieng-Bavet city on the Vietnamese border. The expressway will stretch 160km long and cost about USD3 billion with completion expected in 2033.

“Many Asian countries started developing expressways when their GDP per capita were less than USD500. Now Cambodia is over USD1, 000, so it is time to start developing the expressway network, “said Egami Masahiko, JICA’s representative during the meeting to discuss on the Phnom Penh-Bavit Expressway project in 2013.

According to Cambodia’s Expressway Master Plan, Cambodia will need a total expressway network of 850km, which will cost some USD9 billion by 2020. By 2040, the nation will need an investment capital of about USD26 billion to build 2,230km of expressway, according to the state’s news agency.

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