Cambodian passenger train back on track after years-long hiatus

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen waves from a train compartment window at the Phnom Penh train station on April 30, 2016, as the railway service resumes after years of suspension.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen waves from a train compartment window at the Phnom Penh train station on April 30, 2016, as the railway service resumes after years of suspension.PHOTO: AFP

PHNOM PENH (AFP) - Cambodia's sole passenger train resumed a regular weekend service on Saturday (April 30) after being suspended for years, with Prime Minister Hun Sen climbing aboard to inaugurate the first trip.

"Today is a very important day for the railway," John Guiry, Royal Railway Cambodia's CEO, told AFP before the train rolled out of the capital Phnom Penh for Sihanoukville, a southwestern seaport.

The South-east Asian country has more than 600km of track extending from its northern border with Thailand down to the southern coast, but decades of war and neglect have left vast stretches of the network damaged.

"The train and railway were almost totally destroyed by war more than 40 years ago," Hun Sen wrote on Facebook - a forum the strongman has embraced with gusto in recent months.

"Because our country is now at peace, we have the opportunity to rebuild our transport infrastructure," he added.

The premier, who has been in power for more than three decades, also published several dozen photos of himself greeting local passengers and chatting to orange-robed monks in the packed train cars.

The nearly 270-kilometre route, which passes through farmland and follows part of the country's scenic coast, was reopened to passenger cars for a trial period during the Khmer new year holiday earlier this month.

Trains will now run once a day in either direction from Friday through Sunday.