The Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) on Tuesday announced it hoped to have a public bus system in place in Phnom Penh sometime in 2014, despite earlier assurances it would be up and running this year.
The Japanese government’s international aid arm also presented options to fix the city’s traffic jams to an audience that included representatives from the Ministry for Public Works and Transportation and City Hall.
Tramlines, monorails and underground rail systems were proposed as long-term solutions, but JICA spokesman Egami Masahiko said that a public bus system—which was tried in 2001 but failed—was the first step to relieving traffic congestion in Phnom Penh. “Gradually, we need to improve public transport in the city through large-scale services, but the first step is to introduce a public bus service,” he said.
“We had hoped to have it in place earlier this year but our timeframe has changed and we are now aiming to begin operation from 2014.”
The public bus service that JICA and City Hall tested in Phnom Penh in 2001 was set for a two-month trial but a lack of interest and funds saw it shut down after just a few weeks.
However, Mr. Masahiko said he thinks buses will work this time due to increased traffic.
“The traffic volume was vastly different in 2001,” he said. “There are many more vehicles on the road now and people might see the benefits in public transport more clearly.”
“Also, at that time, the project was not given a large budget, so the buses were not able to run frequently. We hope this time they will be more frequent, making them more user-friendly to the people of Phnom Penh.”
He said he did not have details for the budget of the bus project.
Mr. Masahiko said that JICA would not be operating the bus service—South Korean firm City Trans Cambodia is believed to be the company with the contract—but would remain active in monitoring its operation.
“Phnom Penh City Hall wants private ownership. We will just provide technical support,” he said.
Officials from the Ministry of Public Works and Transport were unavailable for comment Tuesday.
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