Cambodia restores railway link to Thailand after 45 years

Cambodian labourers work at a railway near a train station in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on July 4, 2018.
Cambodian labourers work at a railway near a train station in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on July 4, 2018.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

PHNOM PENH (AFP) - Cambodia on Wednesday (July 4) reopened the final stretch of a railway running from the capital, Phnom Penh, to the border with neighbouring Thailand, the first time the line has been operational in 45 years.

The Asian Development Bank provided US$13 million (S$17.74 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 on Wednesday morning from the north-western 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," Mr Sun Chanthol said.

Cambodia and Thailand still have to hash out an agreement on trains crossing the border, but Mr 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 48km portion of the railway near the border town of Poipet was destroyed by war in 1973.

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

The South-east Asian country has more than 600km of train track, extending from its northern border with Thailand down to the southern coast.