22 Oct 2010
By Prak Chan Thul
PHNOM PENH, Oct 22 (Reuters) - Cambodia has reopened a stretch of railway destroyed during the country's war and officials described it as a step towards boosting regional trade through rail links with neighbours.
The Asian Development Bank is contributing $84 million to a $141 million project to repair 650 km (400 miles) of railway linking Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh, to its borders with Thailand and Vietnam by 2013.
The first section officially opened on Friday runs 120 km (75 miles) southwest from Phnom Penh to Touk Meas in Kampot province, near the border with Vietnam.
Kunio Senga, director general of the Asian Development Bank's Southeast Asia Department, told a news conference the rail link would lower the cost of staple commodities that poor Cambodian families depend on and would help position the country as a sub-regional transport hub.
Tauch Chankosal, secretary of state at Cambodia's Ministry of Public Works and Transport, said a study was under way for a rail link between Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, possibly with financial help from China.
"The estimate is about $600 million," he said of the construction cost. "The funding is not yet finalised."
Toll Holdings Ltd
of Australia has signed a 30-year concession to operate and maintain the railway, which was frequently mined and attacked by Khmer Rouge guerrillas leading to the deployment of cars mounted with machine guns in front of locomotives in the 1980s and 1990s.
Wayne Hunt, CEO of Toll Global Logistics, said the priority was to get freight operating. He said the firm had already invested $5 million and planned to employ 600 people eventually. (Editing by Alan Raybould)