THE resurrection of Cambodia’s only passenger train needs to pick up pace if it is to hit full steam, say local tour operators.
The country’s sole passenger rail service returned last month after a 14-year hiatus and reception has been warm so far with all five restored carriages packed with passengers travelling 266km between Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville every weekend.
“I think it’s a good option for independent travellers who are time-rich but sometimes cash-poor,” said Nick Ray, company advisor, Hanuman Travels. “However, the Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville option is a tough sell due to the slow journey time.”
The Royal Railways-operated train travels at speeds of 33km/h and currently takes about eight hours in comparison to the five- to six-hour journey by road. Rail is the safer option however, with the roads notorious for congestions and accidents.
“Anything that makes it easier for customers to get around is a good thing but it needs to be quicker,” concurs Paddy Robinson, owner of several hotels in Sihanoukville, adding that the train also provides a more scenic route.
Kimhean Pich, founder and CEO of Discover the Mekong, says a popular option with customers is the shorter Sihanoukville to Kampot leg, which takes about four hours.
“The train is now a novelty,” he adds. “It is slow but an enjoyable way for customers to see rural Cambodia.”