The government is studying a possible light-rail line from Siem Reap town east to the new international airport, which remains on track to open in October, according to Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol.

The minister told reporters recently that all of the main work on Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport has been completed, and noted that the construction company is also building a road between the airport and National Road 6.

According to State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) undersecretary of state Sinn Chanserey Vutha, the airport is scheduled to open on October 16. He told The Post on July 9 that the 24.5km “Airport Highway” – at the time 94 per cent complete and anticipated to be finished in September – will start near the national road’s kilometre-294 marker.

An official inauguration ceremony for the airport is slated to be held “under the presidency of [Prime Minister] Hun Sen and senior leaders of the government of the People’s Republic of China”, affirmed Chanserey Vutha, who is also the SSCA’s official spokesperson. He has not been able to name any of the expected Chinese dignitaries, though.

Pacific Asia Travel Association Cambodia Chapter chairman Thourn Sinan welcomed plans for the additional mode of travel to and from the airport, claiming that the proposed light-rail line may offer a glimpse of the Kingdom’s development journey and reduce traffic congestion.

Breaking ground in March 2020, the airport (ICAO-Code: VDSA; IATA-Code: SAI) is being developed by Angkor International Airport Investment (Cambodia) Co Ltd (AIAI) on a build-operate-transfer (BOT) basis on a 700.06ha plot, with about 1,000ha set aside for “Airport City”, which will reportedly comprise industrial or special economic zones.

AIAI disclosed that the gross investment figure had been revised up to $1.100 billion in 2022 from $880 million in 2019. According to earlier accounts, the latter amount had been earmarked for all phases of the airport, with $500 million to be spent on the first and second of the three reported at the time.

The project is a joint venture co-owned by Yunnan Investment Group (76.6%), Yunnan Construction Group (20%) and Yunnan Airport Group (3.4%).

In his July 9 interview with The Post, Chanserey Vutha mentioned that the 4E-category airport will have 38 gates and be able to handle large passenger planes like the Airbus A-340-300 and A350-900 as well as the Boeing B777-200/300ER and B747-300/400.

He said the airport will initially be able to accommodate about 58,000 flights and seven million passengers annually, but at some point between the years of 2030 and 2040, those numbers will rise to 86,000 and 10.5 million, respectively.

Similarly, he noted, the annual cargo capacity will increase from the initial 10,000 tonnes to 30,000 tonnes in the 2030-2040 period.

For reference, in the “4E” code designation, the number “4” means that the airport’s runway is longer than 1,800m and the letter “E” signifies that the runway is designed for aircraft with a wingspan of up to but not including 65m, and landing gear where the outside edges of the outermost wheels are less than 14m apart.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Tourism revealed that Cambodia received 2,579,871 international visitors in the first half of the year (earlier reported as 2.57 million) – equivalent to 77.28 per cent of the 3,338,474 recorded in the same time of 2019.

Land, air and water modes of transportations made up 1.63 million, 0.91 million and 0.03 million of the total – compared to 897,615, 2,353,947 and 86,912 in January-June 2019.

A visitor in the context of these statistics is a person travelling to the Kingdom, “staying at least overnight and not exceeding a specific period for leisure, recreation, business and other legal tourism purposes; and not relevant to the purpose of permanent residence or any remunerated activities”, as defined by the ministry.