Phnom Penh train service to coast resumes

PHNOM PENH • Packed passenger trains are rolling out of Cambodia's capital for the first time in over a decade this week as a railway service running down to the country's southern coast resumes after years of suspension.

The trains will be ferrying passengers from Phnom Penh to the south-western seaport of Sihanoukville over a nine-day trial lasting until April 17 - a week that coincides with the Khmer new year holiday. If the service proves popular, the passenger trains could start operating the nearly 270km route regularly, according to the Royal Railway Cambodia, which in recent years has only used the line for freight.

"All seats were full in the first train," Mr Tith Sam Oeun, commercial manager of Royal Railway, said. Tickets for the journey cost US$6 (S$8) and the trains are able to carry up to 165 passengers each, he added.

Cambodia has more than 600km of railroad extending from its northern border with Thailand down to the south coast, but decades of war and neglect have left vast stretches of track damaged.

"This is a fantastic occasion. You can see that the carriages are just about full," Royal Railways CEO John Guiry said as passengers climbed on board the train in Phnom Penh's station.

"Hopefully, if nothing else...we take some cars off the road and reduce the traffic jams and the frustrations of trying to have a good weekend," he added.

The carriages were filled mostly with local holidaymakers, who peered outside as the train rumbled through farmland and passed along the scenic coast.

Mr Pao Putsereyroth, a passenger, said he was hoping trains would be back for good.

"I'm so excited to be here," he said inside the train car, decked with the country's flag.

"For Cambodian people, we are proud that the train has been put in place once again."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, XINHUA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 14, 2016, with the headline 'Phnom Penh train service to coast resumes'. Print Edition | Subscribe