Government, ADB Differ on Rail Project

The government claims to have finished nearly a third of the work needed to rehabilitate the long-dilapidated railway line from Phnom Penh to the Thai border at Poipet, twice the figure reported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the main financier of the over-budget and behind schedule project.

“The rehabilitation of the 386 km railway…has been achieved 32 percent, according to a report of the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation,” state news agency AKP reported last week.

Ly Borin, director of the ministry’s railway department, said he had not seen the report and declined to comment, as did the secretary of state at the ministry, Touch Chankosal, who oversees railway issues.

While work on the southern line of the railway from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville is complete, the $141.6 million originally budgeted for the project is not enough to complete repairs on the much longer northern stretch. An additional $75 million to $125 million is needed to finish the work.

According to the ADB’s latest report on the project, dated July 3, only 61.5 km—about 16 percent—of the northern line was “completed.”

On Wednesday, ADB country director Eric Sidgwick upped the figure slightly to 63 km, still far from the Transportation Ministry’s claim.

“The 22 km section from Samraong to Bat Deong and the 41 km missing link between Siso­phon and Poipet town have been repaired. ADB is working with the government to prioritize the remaining works to be undertaken on the northern line under the project,” he said in an email.

Mr. Sidgwick declined to comment on the discrepancy between the ADB’s figures and the min­istry’s and referred additional questions to the government.

The government has made repeated requests to Australia and the ADB for additional funding.

In February, the Transportation Min­istry announced that the French construction firm working on the railway, TSO, had been dropped and has yet to name a replacement. Rights groups have also complained repeatedly about the inadequate re­location sites and compensation being offered to the hundreds of poor families the project is displacing.

(Additional reporting by Hul Reaksmey)

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