Heedless Motorists Blamed for Train Crash

An empty passenger train plowed into a cement truck late last week in Phnom Penh, prompting the train operator to defend its safety practices as transport officials blamed heedless drivers for the ongoing accidents since the line to Sihanoukville reopened.

The cement truck driver had stopped near the tracks on Friday, waiting in line to pour cement at a construction site in Pur Senchey district’s Phloeung Chheh Roteh commune, when he reversed backward onto the train tracks to allow another truck to leave the site, said deputy commune police chief Heng Thoch.

“The train was coming and crashed into it,” he said, adding that the driver then fled the scene. The truck and train were removed from the tracks at 2 p.m., he said.

It is the second train crash on the line in two weeks, and one of numerous incidents since the line reopened in April. John Guiry, CEO of Royal Railways, which operates the line, sent a series of text messages on Sunday giving a blow-by-blow account of the latest accident.

“As the locomotive approached the level crossing, it was blowing its train horn with yellow flashing lights on the front operating and its head light was on,” he wrote. “Suddenly the cement truck took off overtaking the 2 stopped cars and drove in front of the locomotive ignoring the locomotive driver blowing the horn.”

Mr. Guiry also outlined Royal Railway’s safety procedures, among them paying monthly visits to all villages along the track and painting trains in bright colors.

Chan Samleng, director of the Transport Ministry’s railway department, said many drivers were still apparently inattentive to the dangers of oncoming trains. “Trucks always seem to be parking on the train tracks,” he remarked.

Mr. Samleng said the ministry’s previous educational efforts concerning trains had focused largely on exhorting area residents not to steal bolts or sections of the track. Ramping up efforts to teach drivers about safely crossing the tracks, he said, was under consideration.

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