For French Transport Minister Jean-Claude Gayssot, updating Cambodia’s railway service means more than providing better transportation.
Students who want to go to university have to come to Phnom Penh, he pointed out. But right now, how can people in the provinces do this quickly and for prices they can afford? This is an example of the opportunities railway service could represent, Gayssot said.
The minister, who spent three days in Cambodia last week before traveling to Thailand and Vietnam, talked about Cambodian railways Friday while flying to Siem Reap. Although he said the highlight of his trip was Thursday’s dedication of expanded international facilities at Pochentong Airport, he also found time to visit the Phnom Penh train station and personally inspect one of the steam engines.
Gayssot began his career in France as a train technician before moving into government work. He said Prime Minister Hun Sen is very interested in railway service.
Gayssot said he will ask the French national railway to support Cambodia’s efforts. The French also will fund a feasibility study for upgrading the Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville line and the Phnom Penh-Poipet line, which currently is usable only as far as Sisophon. Upgrading would require repairing tracks and bridges and purchasing new equipment. Gayssot said that in addition to the economic benefits, the ability to travel is a freedom that people deserve.
He left Cambodia on Saturday for Thailand.