Rail transport in Cambodia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Rail transport in Cambodia
2009-09-07 09-09 Phnom Penh 036 Train Station.jpg
Phnom Penh railway station in 2009
National railwayToll Royal Railways
System length
Total612 kilometres (380 mi)
Electrified0 km (0 mi)
High-speed0 km (0 mi)
Track gauge
Main1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in)
Train in Cambodia

Cambodia has 612 km (380 mi) of 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in) metre gauge rail network, consisting of two lines originally constructed during the time when the country was part of French Indochina. Due to neglect and damage from civil war during the latter half of the 20th century, the railways were in a dilapidated state and all services had been suspended by 2009. As of 2016 freight and limited passenger service are available between Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville. Proposals to repair or replace the line from Phnom Penh to Battambang and the Thailand border are being discussed. (Update July 2018 - passenger trains now run Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville every Friday afternoon at 3pm and both Saturday and Sunday morning at 7:30am. The Phnom Penh to Sisophon line is now open and trains are running for free until the end of August 2018. A passenger train also now runs every 2 hours from the Phnom Penh station to Pochentong Airport)

Recent developments[edit]

The railways are currently being rehabilitated by the Government of Cambodia, with funding from the Asian Development Bank, Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) and Australian company Toll Holdings, to be operated under the name Toll Royal Railways and to complete a missing link in the Trans-Asian Railway. The first line to be reopened as part of this project was the 117 km (73 mi)[1] section between Phnom Penh and Touk Meas in October 2010. The complete Southern line to Sihanoukville Port actually opened, for freight traffic, in January 2013, some 18 months behind schedule.[2]

A new railway connecting Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City is in planning, which would complete the rail link from Singapore to Kunming.[3]

China Railway Group is planning to build a 405 km north-south railway across Cambodia, which would support planned expansion of the steel industry in Cambodia.[4]

Scheduled passenger train services between Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville have resumed in May 2016 after having been suspended for 14 years.[5][6] The line between the Thai border at Poipet and Battambang is under reconstruction as of 2017, with the remainder of the line between Battambang en Phnom Penh planned to be reconstructed at a cost of $150 million.[7] On April 4th 2018 passenger services from Poipet to Sisophon have resumed after 45 years of interruption. By July 2018, Poipet will be connected to Phnom Penh.


French colonial era[edit]

The French colonial government built the first line, which runs from Phnom Penh to Poipet on the Thai border, between 1930 and 1940, with Phnom Penh Railway Station opening in 1932. The final connection with Thailand was completed by the Royal State Railways in 1942. However, the service from Bangkok to Battambang was suspended when the French Indochinese Government resumed sovereignty over Battambang and the Sisophon area from Thailand on December 17, 1946, as Thailand was seen as a supporter of Khmer Issarak, the anti-French, Khmer nationalist political movement.


Phnom Penh - Pursat - Moung Ruessei - Battambang - Sisophon - Poipet

Late 20th century[edit]

In 1955 Australia donated rolling stock, described as "railway wagons of various types", worth at the time ₤A441,000, and "needed for new rail links." [9] Assistance from France, West Germany, and the People's Republic of China between 1960 and 1969 supported the construction of the second line, which runs from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville on the southern coast to cut down the reliance on Saigon Port of Vietnam and Khlong Toei Port of Thailand. In 1960, Australia provided four third-class passenger carriages under the Colombo Plan.[10] Rail service ceased during the war but resumed in the early 1980s. Guerrilla activities, however, continued to disrupt service.

21st century[edit]

Railway Station - Phnom Penh 2012
Rehabilitation of Poipet-Sisophon railway, as seen in 2012
Railways near Battambang
(still used by the bamboo trains)
Opening on April 2016

However, by 2008 the service between Phnom Penh and Battambang had been reduced from daily to weekly service due to the lack of funds to maintain the tracks and rolling stock. Even the new diesel-electric locomotives from China could not run on the tracks due to the dilapidated condition. Derailing of trains in operation was not infrequent. As reported by the Phnom Penh Post in October 2008, the national railway earned merely $2 million per year; the annual freight amount stood at 350,000, and the passenger count at 500,000.[11]

The last regular rail service in Cambodia between Phnom Penh and Battambang was suspended entirely in early 2009, however in June of that year Australian business Toll Holdings was awarded the contract to begin reconstruction of Cambodia's rail network and to operate it once complete.[12] It is envisioned that this line would reopen by mid-2013, together with the track further west to the Thai border, allowing for direct rail services into Cambodia from Bangkok for the first time in over 60 years.[13]

In March 2012, Toll said that it would suspend its involvement in the railway project due to delays, caused by lack of equipment, 2011's flood rains, and the resettlement of thousands of Cambodians.[14] The line from Phnom Penh to the deep water port at Sihanoukville was also scheduled to be reopened in 2011.[1] However, the company came back in late July and said it will start transporting construction materials needed to build the southern line from 1 August.

The Australian government and the Asian Development Bank was said to spend $26 million to help rebuild Cambodia's rail system, the majority of the Northern and Southern lines in Cambodia.[15] The project, if all up, would cost $143 million, with the disruption exposed in a report by the international consortium funding the $143 million project - Australia's international aid agency AusAID and the Asian Development Bank. 641 kilometers of track will be rehabilitated with the aim of integrating Cambodia with the regional network such as Vietnam and Thailand; however,about 1,400 families who are living in shanty towns, have been affected and 1050 families have had to move.[16] The report which was prepared by AusAID and Asian Development Bank experts in April 2012 pointed out poor construction and botched surveys leading to evictions of families, infighting between contractors, delays and cost overruns.

In June 2012, Cambodia was discussing with the Chinese government on funding for a 250-kilometre stretch of rail line between Cambodia and Vietnam.[17] Var Sim Sorya, director general of Ministry of Public Works and Transportation said: "China doesn’t have so many conditions, but Chinese technicians are still well-studied," he said yesterday at a workshop on infrastructure, although he did not specify which conditions were undesirable.[15]

The line between Phnom Penh and the South opened to travellers in April 9, 2016.[18]

It was announced in March 2018 that the line from Poipet to Sisophon would begin operations on April 4, 2018. [19] Subsequently, operations were further extended to Battambang on 29 April, with plans to open the line to Pursat on 29 May. It was also reported that new railway routes were being studied by private companies. [20]



Royal Cambodian Railways[21]
  • Date: c. 1956
  • Route: Connections with railways in Thailand and Vietnam
  • Gauge: 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in)
  • Route length: 242 miles
  • Locomotives: 23 - it appears that 19 of these still exist and one (RRC No. 231-501 4-6-2) is operational[22]


CSR Qishuyan Locomotive Company of China[23] has supplied diesel-electric locomotives of type CKD6D to Cambodia Royal Railway. These are 880 kW Bo-Bo locomotives with Caterpillar CAT3508B diesel engines.[24]

Railway links with adjacent countries[edit]

  • Thailand Thailand - yes - same gauge 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in)
  • Laos Laos - no - same gauge 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in) - indirectly via Thailand
  • Vietnam Vietnam - no - under construction - same gauge 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in)



  • Trans-Asian Railway network planned -[25]
  • Link proposed Thailand Aranyaprathet, Thailand to Cambodia Sisophon, Cambodia
  • Malaysia offer to donate rails and sleepers to Cambodia, to help them complete the missing links, which would be of value to all countries in the vicinity.
  • 17 November 2006 - To complete a missing link in the Singapore-Kunming rail route, Malaysia has donated rails to Cambodia which will be used to connect Poipet to Sisophon (48 km).[26] According to Transport Minister Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy, the rail was lifted from the old Rawang-Ipoh section where a new electrified double line has been built. A link between Cambodia and Vietnam including a crossing of the Mekong River is still required. The completed Singapore-Kunming line is expected to promote increased trade with China.
  • 16 December 2006 - The Asian Development Bank is advancing a loan together with the donation in kind of rails from Malaysia will see restoration of the link with Thailand.



  • November, 2008 - agreement for Vietnam - Cambodia link[28]
  • October–November: A 30-year agreement is prepared with Australia's Toll Holdings to upgrade the national railway system, restore the link from the present western railhead at Sisophon to the Thai railhead at Poipet, and to construct a new 225-km line linking Cambodian railways to the Vietnamese railhead of Lộc Ninh. The renovation of the existing lines, to be carried out in 50 km segments, is expected to take 2–3 years. The link to Vietnam would involve construction of two major bridges: one across the Tonlé Sap River, and another across the Mekong River in Kampong Cham Province. The Cambodian government is hoping to get assistance from China to finance the project.[11]




  • March Toll Holdings publicly announced that it would suspend its work for a year due to refurbishment delays.
  • August 1 the company started transporting construction materials to build the Southern line.


  • July 25 a ground-breaking ceremony was held in Poipet as work to reinstate the cross-border railway to Thailand was begun.[29]


  • August work is expected to begin on rehabilitation of the line between Phnom Penh and Sisophon.[30]


  • April 9 - Opening to travellers of the line Phnom Penh and the South (Sihanoukville, Kampot).


  • April 4 - Opening of the line between Poipet and Sisophon
  • April 29 - Extension of service from Sisophon to Battambang
  • May 29 - (scheduled) Extension of service from Battambang to Pursat
  • July 04 - Extension of service from Pursat to Phnom Penh

Bamboo Railway[edit]

Bamboo train (Norry) station near Battambang

The Bamboo railway as it is known to overseas visitors, "norry" or "lorries" as it is known to locals is a popular form of transport in the Northwestern area of the country near Battambang. The trains consist of a bamboo-covered platform and two detached axles with wheels. They run on regular tracks and are powered with scavenged engines, such as Briggs & Stratton type air-cooled gasoline engines adapted from portable electricity generators, or from water pumps[1] Power is transmitted by belt and pulley. Trains can reach up to 40 km/h. When meeting traffic in the opposite direction, passengers of the cart with fewer passengers are expected to lift the platform, engine, and axles of their cart off the tracks to let the other cart pass.[31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Rail revival to replace Cambodia's bamboo trains". Railway Gazette International. 22 October 2010.
  2. ^ "Toll Royal Railway opens Phase One of the Cambodian Railway". Archived from the original on 1 November 2010. Retrieved 28 October 2010.
  3. ^ "Cambodia Takes First Step in Connecting Regional Railways". Voice of America.
  4. ^ "Railway planned to link steel plant and port". Railway Gazette International. Retrieved 7 January 2013.
  5. ^ Maierbrugger, Arno. "Passenger trains revived in Cambodia after 14-year-hiatus | Investvine". Investvine. Retrieved 2016-04-01.
  6. ^ Peter Ford (5 June 2016). "Cambodia revives train service between Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville". The Guardian.
  7. ^ Siv Meng (12 January 2017). "Poipet railway works face setbacks".
  8. ^ Oxford World Atlas, Oxford University Press, 1973, page 65
  9. ^ [1] The Central Queensland Herald, Rolling Stock: Australian Gift to Cambodia, 11 August 2012
  10. ^ Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin, March, 1960 pp39-40
  11. ^ a b Ailing railway set for upgrade. The Phnom Penh Post, 29 October 2008.
  12. ^ a b Cambodian rail concession signed Archived 23 March 2010 at the Wayback Machine Railway Gazette International, 12 June 2009
  13. ^ "Transport boost for South East Asian tourism". The Independent. London. 17 December 2009.
  14. ^ Daniel, Zoe (24 March 2012). "Toll postpones criticised Cambodia rail project". ABC News. Archived from the original on 16 January 2013. Retrieved 28 July 2012.
  15. ^ a b Rann, Reuy (13 June 2012). "China may fund Cambodia-Vietnam rail". Phnom Penh Post. Retrieved 28 July 2012.
  16. ^ Philip Heijmans, and Tom Hyland. "Planning failure derails aid project". The Age. Retrieved 18 June 2012.
  17. ^ Rann, Reuy. "http://www.phnompenhpost.com/index.php/2012061356758/Business/china-to-fund-cambodia-rail.html". Phnom Penh Post. Retrieved 18 June 2012. External link in |title= (help)
  18. ^ http://royal-railway.com/?page=detail&article=82&lg=en
  19. ^ https://www.facebook.com/TRRCambodia/posts/1440412056081642
  20. ^ Kimsay, Hor (30 April 2018). "Service opens on restored rails connecting Battambang, Banteay Meanchey". Phnom Penh Post. Retrieved 30 April 2018.
  21. ^ Sampson, H. (General Editor), The Dumpy Book of Railways of the World, Sampson Low, London, c. 1956, page 171
  22. ^ http://www.steamlocomotive.info/country.cfm?which=cambodia
  23. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 28 March 2012. Retrieved 25 July 2011.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  24. ^ http://biz.everychina.com/qscn-r/z25ac062-ckd6d_meter_gauge_diesel_locomotive.html
  25. ^ "VietNamNet Bridge". Archived from the original on 18 June 2010. Retrieved 28 October 2010.
  26. ^ Intelligence Archived 9 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine Railway Gazette International April 2005
  27. ^ a b International Railway Journal December 2007 p4
  28. ^ Cambodia-Vietnam agreement brings Trans-Asian railway closer GoKunming, 10 November 2008
  29. ^ "Work starts to bridge Thailand – Cambodia missing link". Railway Gazette International. 28 July 2014.
  30. ^ "Government funds Phnom Penh – Sisophon rehabilitation". Railway Gazette International. 3 August 2015.
  31. ^ De Launey, Guy (4 July 2006). "Cambodians ride 'bamboo railway'". BBC News.

External links[edit]

External links[edit]

Media related to Rail transport in Cambodia at Wikimedia Commons