A railway system that would transport passengers from the center of Phnom Penh to its airport will open to the public in April, Transport Minister Sun Chanthol announced on Friday, adding that no evictions would be necessary to make way for the development.
An additional 1.5 km of railroad tracks will be built to branch off existing lines and drop off passengers at the airport, Mr. Chanthol said in Phnom Penh during a handover ceremony for mechanical equipment donated by China.
“This [project] will reduce traffic jams leading to the Phnom Penh airport and prevent people from being late to their flights,” he said, adding that 250 meters had already been constructed by the country’s railroad company, Royal Railway.
Four $1 to $2 million trains purchased by the railway company from Mexico will run along the route once it is complete, he said, adding that during the first month of operation, rides would be free of charge.
The minister also took the opportunity to emphasize that the project would not disturb residents living on either side of the train tracks.
“Some villagers don’t understand this main project, so they worry,” he said. “There will be no demolished houses or evictions.”
The project will be built during the night to avoid adding to the traffic jams that the new system is intended to reduce, Mr. Chanthol said.
Ministry spokesman Var Sim Sorya could not be reached for comment.
John Guiry, CEO of Royal Railway, echoed the minister’s statements, saying that the construction would not affect villagers.
He said construction had begun about six weeks ago and was expected to wrap up by April, with about 10 to 12 meters being laid down each night. The budget for the project was confidential, he said, but added that it was “part of a current maintenance budget” for the company.
Mr. Guiry has previously said that the service will allow travel from the airport to the city center in about 15 minutes.
Nevertheless, a lack of communication from the government or railway company on specific construction plans has left villagers living in fear that their homes would be encroached upon, said Nou Sarin, a 58-year-old villager living near the railroad tracks in Tuol Kok district’s Boeng Kak II commune.
“They never inform us when specifically it will start,” Mr. Sarin said. “We are afraid when they start how many meters they will need.”
(Additional reporting by Janelle Retka)