Cambodia: Passenger train from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville


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Goverment officials tour the train last week. Premier Hun Sen will travel by train to Sihanoukville on April 30 and will meet with workers there on May 1, which is International Labor Day

In an effort at promote the Kingdom’s railways, Prime Minister Hun Sen will travel from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville by train on April 30, and has promised to post many pictures of his travels on Facebook.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting on Friday, the premier said he will be accompanied to Sihanoukville by Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol.

“I want to see how good, comfortable Cambodia’s train is. I want to promote transportation by train,” the prime minister said.


Cambodian trains return after 14 years
APRIL 30, 2016

Cambodia's train service to the coast has resumed after a 14-year hiatus, pulling out of Phnom Penh station with Prime Minister Hun Sen on board.

The passenger rail service on Saturday was the first to run anywhere in the country for about seven years.

Hun Sen rode the train with senior ministers and a retinue of bodyguards headed for the coastal town of Sihanoukville, a popular tourist destination.

The Australian CEO of Royal Railways John Guiry said the train service, restarted at a cost of more than $US160 million ($A209.79 million), will be followed by an expansion of the line north to the Thai border by December.

Phnom Penh station - like much of the country's rail network - was built by the French during the 1930s.

The train to Sihanoukville became infamous in 1994, when Khmer Rouge guerillas kidnapped and executed three foreign tourists, including Australian David Wilson, who were on the train.


9 April 2016 PHNOM PENH — Passenger train services resumed in Cambodia on Saturday for a limited period following a 14-year suspension because of poor railway conditions.

A train with nearly 200 passengers on board left Phnom Penh station at 7am for an eight-hour, 264-kilometre trip to a popular beach resort in the southwestern coastal province of Sihanoukville.

John Guiry, CEO of Royal Railways of Cambodia, said the resumption was "part of an initial phase to try the service to see if it is popular". If demand is good, services will be provided regularly, he said.

Royal Railways is offering the service between Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville for nine days to coincide with the Cambodian New Year holidays, with a train leaving the capital at 7am every day until April 16 and another leaving Sihanoukville at the same time from Sunday to April 17.

The trains will make two stops at passenger-ready stations in Takeo and Kampot provinces. A one-way ticket costs $6.

Guiry said the train services were expected to reduce heavy traffic congestion during the Khmer New Year.

The air-conditioned three-wagon trains travel at average speeds of 30 to 40 kilometres per hour. By popular demand, two extra wagons equipped with only fans were added on Saturday.

Khun Sotheara, a 26-year-old employee of a travel agency, said it was the first time he had ever taken a train and added that he is "proud of and satisfied with the train service".

Because of neglect and damage from the long civil war, railways in the country were in a dilapidated state and all services had been suspended by 2009 for rehabilitation.


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After 14 Years, Passenger Train Service to the Coast Restarts

11April 2016

For most people who boarded the passenger train from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville on Saturday morning—the maiden ride since the service was suspended more than a decade ago—it was something of a new thrill.

But for Buo Than, the trip came with a touch of nostalgia.

Passengers disembark from a Royal Railway train at the Kampot station on Saturday morning during the inaugural trip from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville.

“I am glad I am able to do this again,” the 68-year-old farmer from Kandal province said, sitting next to a window on the way to meet her son in Sihanoukville.

“Maybe when the Vietnamese were still here,” she said of the last time she made the trip by train, referring to the socialist 1980s. “It was a dangerous time to travel outside of Phnom Penh.”

engineer of the passenger train that made the inaugural trip from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville on Saturday morning. (Kieran Jones)
“We go to the coast every year, but we normally take the bus,” she explained. “If they can make it a bit faster, then we will take this way again. It is great to smell the fresh air.”

Although the 266 km journey was scheduled to take eight hours—more than three hours slower than comparable road transport—it only took 20 minutes for the train to clear the western sprawl of Phnom Penh, turning south near the airport to begin its slow progress to the coast.

Sharing a similar route to National Road 3 in some stretches, parched rice paddies made up much of the view. However, the train passed some notable landmarks, including Bokor Mountain.

“Look at that, how cool!” Khim Chakry said to his wife as the train passed cave-studded limestone karsts in Kampot province.

“I have taken the bus on this road many times and never knew these were here,” said the 32-year-old employee at a telecoms firm, adding that the slow pace of the train allowed him to focus on the scenery.

As the train made its way south, an oft-used horn cleared cows from the tracks and announced its pending arrival at numerous road crossings, both manned and unmanned, and some without any apparent barrier to stop traffic.

The service made two stops before Sihanoukville, arriving at the Takeo train station at 9:07 and the Kampot station at 11:30. It pulled into the newly refurbished Sihanoukville station just after 2:30 p.m—a seven and a half hour journey—to a greeting of “Happy New Year!” from tourism officials and local business owners competing with tuk-tuk drivers to be the first to welcome passengers.

“In short, it has been a success, and we are just hoping now that everyone agrees with me and enjoyed the trip,” Mr. Guiry said on the platform in Sihanoukville.

“If it continues like today, and the support is the way it is, we will have to think about what we do next,” he said. “Do we just do the next holiday, or do we go for just weekends, and what sort of service do we offer?”

Moo Uaon

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Cambo is certainly more popular with tourists in the last 14 years....could be a goer. one would have to wonder about the state of the tracks and infrastructure though?


Hope its a success. Always wanted to go to Cambo and take in a few days at Sihanoukville, a train service would be much more preferable to me than a coach


Ive been driven down from PP to Snooky and back twice.
We never went near Kampot , so Im a bit surprised the train stops there ...


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Hun Sen Takes Rail to Sihanoukville; Praises Service
MAY 2, 2016

Prime Minister Hun Sen caught the recently restarted passenger train from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville on Saturday, writing on Facebook following the trip that he would ask the king to join him next time and was considering plans for a similar railway line to Siem Reap.

After a 14-year hiatus, Royal Railways officially restarted the service between the capital and the coast over the weekend following a successful trial run during the Khmer New Year holiday.

Prime Minister Hun Sen arrives at Phnom Penh’s train station on Saturday before taking the recently restarted passenger service to Sihanoukville. (Pring Samrang/Reuters)

“Yesterday, I traveled from Phnom Penh to the Sihanoukville port by train, taking 7 hours,” Mr. Hun Sen said in the post, adding that the government was looking to reduce the travel time to five hours.

The prime minister said he would invite King Norodom Sihamoni to ride the train with him in the future to honor the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk, who oversaw the initial construction of the train tracks.

“The late King Norodom Sihanouk led the construction of the railways and the port,” he wrote, adding that he had spoken with Transport Minister Sun Chanthol and Royal Group CEO Kith Meng about the proposal.

“I will find a way to meet the king and invite the king to travel by train,” he said, also calling on the public to take the train and enjoy the free wireless internet and air conditioning available in some cars.

Responding to comments from Facebook users suggesting that the government build a passenger train line from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, Mr. Hun Sen said it was under consideration. “It is being studied, and we are looking for funds to build it,” he said. “Our imports and exports have been more and more. So, we have to enhance the capacities of the port and the railways.”

John Guiry, CEO of Royal Railway, said on Sunday almost 400 passengers were on board with Mr. Hun Sen on Saturday. On its return service in the evening, Mr. Guiry said about 130 passengers rode the train to Phnom Penh, while 90 headed to Sihanoukville on Sunday morning.


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Article in Phnom Penh Post
6 May 2016

All aboard: A history of Cambodia’s railways

Cambodia’s railway system – two lines that run the western length of the country–has long been plagued by war, political violence and the neglect that spoils most infrastructure in a poor, war-torn country. But even before its abandonment, the railway faced gloom.

In its short lifespan, Cambodia’s 600 kilometres of railway has been witness to kidnapping and murder. It has carried whole cities to slavery and been employed in mass atrocities.

A train fully laden with passengers snakes its way through the jungle on the route from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville in 1998. AFP

Khmer Rouge cadres ride a train in an undated photo.

Repatriated refugees on a train from Thailand pass through Kampong Speu on their way home in April 1992, guarded by Malaysian army soldiers. AFP

Cambodia’s rail network historically runs about 600km, reaching north from Phnom Penh to Poipet and south to Sihanoukville.

The track was built for trade. According to historian Jean-Michel Filippi, the French unveiled its protectorate’s first railroad in June 1932, the Phnom Penh to Battambang line, with plans of expanding trade with neighbouring Thailand. It took 35 months to build, said Locard.

The line was, as described by the project’s lead engineer Henri Maux in La Belle Aube: Henri Maux, jeune ingénieur en Indochine, 1927-1937, a part of King Monivong’s “great modernisation campaign to develop the potential wealth of the country”. It was a decade that Locard characterised as “the climax of the French achievements in the colonial age.”

The southern line that extends from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville was constructed three decades later to deliver goods to the newly built Sihanoukville port. The line was made within a newly independent Cambodia, under orders from then-prime minister Norodom Sihanouk, whose grandfather had overseen the first track. And like the past railway, this one was financed by the French.


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Wild train travel in 1994

Braving the S'ville express
21 Oct, 1994 Mark Dodd and Reuters

ONE of the most popular myths about Cambodian rail travel has it that passengers traveling on the two "mine clearing" flat bed cars pushed in front of the locomotive ride free of charge.

Not so, they take the risk and they pay for the ride - 1,500 riel to be precise.

Two unusual engineering modifications to the 1960s French-built Alsthom locomotive, indicate rail travel in Cambodia is not an occasion without peril.

The front of the cramped cab is sheeted with inch-thick steel plate with two visors cut for visibility. Steel fashioned from railway iron have been welded into a device not unlike the "cow catchers" bolted onto steam trains in Wild West films.

The heavy-duty glass windshield is punctured by a bullet hole while the steel cab doors and interior paneling are also scarred by recent shrapnel.

For the train crews and accompanying railway militia the biggest security threat is posed by marauding gangs of Khmer Rouge guerrillas, but it is not unknown for renegade bands of poorly paid, undisciplined government soldiers and police to be involved.

The Kampot line arguably winds through some of the most scenic countryside in Cambodia yet it can be some of the most dangerous.

On July 26 Khmer Rouge guerrillas raided a Sihanoukville-bound train, leaving 13 people killed and three Westerners hostage.

"It was an average attack," said Op, adding that he was unaware he was carrying three foreigners.

"The day before the elections - that was worst. They [Khmer Rouge] were waiting for us on both sides of the railway and they used rockets to attack us.

"More than 30 people were killed," he said. Yet despite the attacks, the number of passengers who travel on the trains has increased Op said.

"These are poor people - they use the train to transport chickens, eggs and vegetables," he said. The second engineer estimated more than 350 people were traveling on the train.
Attached files


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On July 26 1994 Khmer Rouge guerrillas raided a Sihanoukville-bound train, leaving 13 people killed and three Westerners hostage.
Using grenade launchers, and shooting at least 13 passengers dead, the Khmer Rouge marched more than 200 captives away. The Cambodians who had been seized were later released, but the three Westerners were taken to a mountain stronghold in Kampot province south of Phnom Penh, where they were put to work building dykes.

Khmer Rouge Backpacker Victims: Australian David Wilson (L), Frenchman Jean-Michel Braquet (C), and Briton Mark Slater (R)

In a desperate message to the bureaucrats, Mr Wilson and his two fellow captives stated: “If the government won’t pay for our release please do the moral thing and give our families the opportunity to arrange our release. Please, please, please get us out of here.”

On September 28, on the order of General Paet, the three foreigners were marched to the place where they were killed.

“Their hands were tied with coloured nylon rope, and they were taken to the back of the house by the four men,” Mr West would state.

“(Two of the men) were carrying AK rifles.”

Slater and Braquet were shot dead. Wilson was fatally bashed to the right side of his head.

“It is not possible to determine definitively who applied the blunt instrument force that caused Mr Wilson’s death or why he was not shot, while Mr Slater and Mr Braquet were,” Mr West stated in his finding.

Australian federal agents and army officials located the men’s bodies in a shallow grave near General Paet’s camp on November 2, 1994.


I didn't realise the Khmer Rouge were still going in 1994... when did they finally die out?


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1998 I think it was, their last stronghold was around Pailin, other side of the dividing ranges from Chanthaburi

Edit re Pailin:

It was part of Siam/Thailand from 1594 until 1946 when it was returned to Cambodia

Pailin Journal; Come and Meet the Nonexistent Khmer Rouge

24 July 1998. But this muddy gem-mining town in the far northwest of the country is not an ordinary place. It is home to some 25,000 Khmer Rouge defectors who are consolidating an autonomous zone -- surrounded by the thick jungles that protected them during their 16-year insurgency -- with their own government, economy, police force and army of 5,000 soldiers.

Pol Pot died in April, and the last three Khmer Rouge leaders who have refused to defect are on the run with no more than a handful of armed men. The Khmer Rouge, who caused more than a million deaths when they ruled the country from 1975 to 1979, are a spent force.

But here in Pailin, under the leadership of Pol Pot's brother-in-law, Ieng Sary, the residue of that brutal Communist movement remains intact and well organized.
Attached files


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Back on 'track'

Exploring Battambang’s abandoned railway station
SEMI on January 16, 2015

Steeped in politics, the history of Cambodia’s railway is short and tragic.

The first line was constructed by the French in the 1930s and 40s to link Phnom Penh to Bangkok, but was terminated at the border a mere four years after completion when the French Indochinese government suspected Thailand of supporting the anti-French, anti-colonial Khmer Issarak movement. The second line, from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville, was completed with the help of France, West Germany and China in the 1960s, with the hopes of boosting port activity and reducing reliance on Thailand and Saigon. But then civil war broke out, and the railway fell victim to heavy artillery damage and the whims of the Khmer Rouge, who went as far as destroying the tracks in several places. In the 1980s some services were resumed, but after decades of neglect and lack of funding, services stopped completely in 2009.

On the west side of the city stands the old Battambang train station, still in relatively good condition with its shuttered gates and clock indefinitely set to 8:02. The train tracks are mostly overgrown, except for a small field where someone has set up a badminton net. Beyond that are the hulking leftovers of dilapidated warehouses, signalling equipment, and rail stock. But despite their condition, a lot of the buildings are still in use by the less fortunate residents of Cambodia’s second-largest city as housing, storage, and even a mobile phone shop.



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Chob;284747 said:
Never been to Batambang.... anyone been there?
years ago I went across the border at Poi Pet to see the disputed temple there....we then went on down to PP....had a stop in BB along the way for lunch and a quick look around.....its a reasonable sized provincial capital and iirc there is a nice temple there...very bare and dusty