Cambodia restores railway link to Thailand after 45 years

AFP-JIJI

Cambodia on ‘Wednesday reopened the final stretch of a railway running from the capital Phnom Penh to the border with neighboring Thailand, the first time the line has been operational in 45 years.

The Asian Development Bank provided $13 million in 2009 to rebuild the missing link which aims to slash travel time between the two countries and boost trade.

Cambodian transport minister Sun Chanthol said a train ran Wednesday morning from the northwestern province of Pursat to Phnom Penh, the last remaining section of the track between the two countries to be finished.

“This is a historic day for our nation,” Sun Chanthol said.

Cambodia and Thailand still have to hash out an agreement on trains crossing the border but Sun Chanthol said the two countries hoped to strike a deal soon.

Much of Cambodia’s railways — built by the French during their colonial occupation — were damaged by years of bitter conflict that engulfed the country during the Cold War era.

A 48-kilometer portion of the railway near the border town of Poipet was destroyed by war in 1973.

The rest of link to Phnom Penh had been suspended for more than a decade due to the poor condition of the track.

The Southeast Asian country has more than 600 kilometers (375 miles) of train track extending from its northern border with Thailand down to the southern coast.

Cambodian transport personnel looks out from a train upon arrival in Phnom Penh railway station on Wednesday after traveling from the northwestern province of Pursat using the newly restored railway.