Chinese and Australian engineers are gearing up to build the final
stretch of track in the Trans-Asian Railway, which will link Singapore,
Malaysia and Thailand with Vietnam and China through Cambodia. The
Cambodian government has divided the country's railway system in two.
Australia's Toll Holdings takes control of old French-built lines in
the east, which run from the capital to the Thai border and south to
Sihanoukville, home to one of the largest ports in the Gulf of Siam.
China Railway Group has the contract to carry out a feasibility study
that will link Phnom Penh with Snoul near this country's western border
This 255-kilometer stretch will complete the
Singapore-to-Kunming line, a railway connecting southeast Asia to the
heart of China.
Paul Power is an advisor to the Cambodian
government and team leader for the Asian Development Bank's involvement
in the reconstruction of Cambodia's railways. He says the railway's
economic benefit for the region and Cambodia will be enormous.
makes Cambodia the hub of transportation between China and Singapore
and you would have a port link, you would have a link to Thailand,
you'll have a link through to Vietnam," Power said, "and the
implications for that, for Cambodia in the region, are that Cambodia
becomes the hub."
He says freight will provide the greatest
economic benefits, particularly for shipping bulk goods like rice. The
railway will be a cheaper alternative to ships and trucks.
the contractors first must deal with the thorny issue of resettling
people living along the route. In Cambodia, poor landholders often are
pushed out with little compensation to make way for commercial
developments, causing considerable public anger.
Power says the
companies working on the railway are aware of the problems that have
afflicted other construction projects and thinks they can avoid similar
If the resettlement issues are resolved quickly
then authorities hope the first passengers from Singapore to China and
beyond as far as London, will start boarding within the next two years.