Anyone who has battled to get to work through congested roads during rush hour in Phnom Penh is only too aware just how long the daily commute across the city can take. But a solution could be in the offing—or rather, up in the air.
Japan’s international aid agency is proposing to bring a driverless skyline train to the city, capable of whisking commuters on a smooth ride to and from work on a track above the streets.
At the moment, the project is only at the planning stage—and similar plans have been discussed and apparently dropped—but it could provide the answer to Phnom Penh’s traffic problem if a proposed feasibility study discussed on Wednesday at City Hall bears fruit.
“The project will contribute to cutting down traffic congestion, which is part of the work that JICA has been doing,” said City Hall spokesman Met Measpheakdey, referring to the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which is driving the idea.
An Automated Guideway Transit (AGT) features vehicles traveling along a “guideway” or rail system, similar to a SkyTrain, Tram or Monorail system, mostly on rubber tires, although some have steel wheels.
AGT systems are already used in cities around the world, including Tokyo. City Hall posted a photograph of a train running through a Korean city on their Facebook page as an example of what the railway might look like.
Speaking at a meeting with City Hall officials in Phnom Penh on Wednesday, JICA representatives said they would start by carrying out a feasibility study in April on building a line to link Monireth Boulevard, which girdles the Olympic stadium, to the city’s Choam Chao area near the international airport.
Mr. Measpheakdey said that it was too soon to know if the project would work, how much it would cost or who would pay for it.
“After they finish conducting the study, we will know how many millions will be spent, and whether the money for implementing the project or building the skyline for AGT will be a donation from Japan through JICA,” he said.
When the AGT idea was first mooted in September, a figure of $800 million was mentioned.
Chan Samleng, director of the Transport Ministry’s railway department, said a mass public transport system needed to be implemented in the future as the city’s population expands, though he noted that funding could be an issue.
“I think if it is done solely with the state’s budget, we might be a bit hard-pressed,” he said.