Passenger train services in Cambodia resumed in 2016 following a period of 7 years with no passenger train services at all. The revival of passenger and freight services on Cambodia Railway is now picking up pace, with work being done to improve the speed of services and re-establish rail connections with neighboring countries.
About Cambodia Trains
Cambodia’s first railway line, from Phnom Penh to the border with Thailand at Poipet, was constructed by the French colonial government in the 1930s, with a further train line from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville built thereafter. The railway service in Cambodia then went to decline for the next 70 years as Cambodia went through succesive social political and uphevals, first with the end of Colonial rule, then with the devestation of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime, and a long period after that when Cambodia sufferred more economic and political uncertainty. The fortunes of the railway network have in a very real sense mirrored the wider developments in Cambodian society, and the revival of the railway system is a potent symbol of move towards a better future for the long sufferring people of Cambodia.
Part of what is driving the revival of Cambodia’s network is the China led plan to create a Pan Asian Railway Network linking Kumming in China with Singapore, via Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Malaysia. An ambitious scheme in which the Chinese Government has been investing considerable money and expertise into, particularly to Laos and Cambodia with whom China has good relations.
Popular Train Journeys in Cambodia
Cambodia currently has 612 km of railway track in use across 3 lines:
- Phnom Penh to Poipet.
- Phnom Penh to Phnom Penh Airport.
- Phnom Penh to Sihanoukoville.
Of these three services, the most popular is the train service between Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville, which has stops on route at Takeo and Kampot. There are 4 trains running each way every week on this line. The journey time by train is currently 7 hours 30 from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville, compared to 4 hours 30 minutes by bus. Despite being a bit slow, this weekend service is popular with Camobdian holiday makers who treat the journey as a leisure activity in its own right, travelling in large groups and comsuming lots of food and drinks on the way. Passengers see Cambodia’s train services as fun. It will be some time, however, before they see them as a fast and cost effective alternative to travel by road.