Royal Railways is conducting a feasibility study on a rail line that would whisk passengers from the center of Phnom Penh to the airport in less than 15 minutes, the company’s CEO said on Wednesday.
Though the plan is still in the early stages of discussion, Royal Railways CEO John Guiry said he hoped to use an existing rail line for most of the route and, under the most optimistic scenario, have trains running in 18 months.
“You’d depart and you’d almost be sitting in the Burger King at the airport” in 10 to 15 minutes, Mr. Guiry said.
Though Mr. Guiry stressed that the plan was “only just a discussion at this point,” he predicted a relatively fast launch of the service. “It’s not a 10-year process,” he said. “I want to have a go of it.”
Cambodia is undergoing a rail revival of sorts. Last month, Royal Railways restarted a route from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville that had been dormant for 14 years.
The proposed airport train would track along the same route as that of a planned elevated expressway that Prime Minister Hun Sen abruptly canceled last month, two months after senior government officials warned that it would negatively impact at least a thousand families.
Mr. Guiry said “no evictions” would be necessary to complete the rail line. “I wouldn’t even do it if there was a risk of eviction,” he said.
The line would follow tracks already in use except for a final stretch along currently vacant land, he added.
The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) called for a similar line in its 2035 master plan for urban transport in Phnom Penh, alongside a $586 million driverless train that would travel along a separate, southern route to the airport.
JICA project adviser Aya Miura said on Wednesday the projects were complementary and that the southern line, which would be financed by Japanese loans if built, had not yet undergone a feasibility study.
Private taxi driver Leang La said it currently takes him anywhere from 45 to 70 minutes to transport customers the roughly 11 km from central Phnom Penh to the airport.
“Sometimes they are very late,” Mr. La said. “Nowadays is not very good for traffic.”
© 2016, Ben Paviour. All rights reserved.