A railway line that will transport passengers from the center of Phnom Penh to its airport is set to open 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 railway track will be built to branch off existing lines and drop passengers at the airport, Mr. Chanthol said during a handover ceremony in Phnom Penh 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 company from Mexico will run along the route, he said, adding that during the first month of operation, rides would be free of charge.
The minister emphasized that the project would not disturb residents living along the tracks.
“Some villagers don’t understand this main project, so they worry,” he said. “There will be no demolished houses or evictions.”
Work will take place at night to avoid adding to the traffic jams the new line 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 project’s budget was confidential, he said, but was “part of a current maintenance budget” for the company. Tickets would likely cost between $5 and $7, he added, but the price would be set closer to the launch.
Mr. Guiry has previously said the journey would take about 15 minutes.
Nevertheless, 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 living near the tracks in Tuol Kok district’s Boeng Kak II commune.
“They never informed 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)