Chinese state-owned China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) has been authorised by the Ministry of Public Works and Transport to conduct a formal, more in-depth study on the proposed Phnom Penh-Siem Reap Expressway, as the government seeks to spur transportation and tourism between the two major urban centres.

The transport ministry previously reported that four undisclosed companies had been conducting preliminary studies for the expressway.

A ministry letter signed by minister Sun Chanthol and dated March 24 revealed that the study will begin “soon”, covering the capital and the provinces of Kandal, Kampong Cham, Kampong Thom and Siem Reap.

The letter asked regional governors to “intervene and coordinate” with authorities and relevant units in their jurisdiction to ensure that CRBC’s work proceeds “smoothly”.

Speaking to The Post on March 28, Pacific Asia Travel Association Cambodia Chapter (PATACC) chairman Thourn Sinan welcomed the proposal for a high-speed thoroughfare between the capital and Siem Reap.

Offering a possible sign of things to come if the road is built, Sinan described the Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway – the first of its kind in the Kingdom, which opened on October 1 – as a safe time-saver that diverts lots of traffic from national highways and has significantly changed economic and tourism trends between the two localities.

“With the expressway, I believe that Siem Reap will receive more sightseers – the tourism sector contributes a tonne to family incomes and the national economy. When travel is convenient, freight and passenger traffic goes up,” he said, calling for a thorough study so as to minimise adverse impacts on locals.

Logistics and Supply Chain Business Association in Cambodia president Chea Chandara similarly remarked that the expressway would drive up visitors to Siem Reap, underpinned by the international acclaim of Angkor Wat.

The growing national road network offers a host of new freight and passenger transport options, he noted, suggesting that the tailwinds in tourism would be a boon for the transportation sector, as demand for foods and other goods ratchets up.

“I’m very pleased that the government has put forth such plans, which continually increase the efficiency of transportation. More roads will help reduce costs,” he said.

On February 15, the transport minister revealed that a Framework Agreement for the expressway was expected to be signed in September.

For reference, the Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway cost about $2 billion to build and was formally inaugurated on November 1 – a month after opening. The $1.7 billion second expressway, linking the capital to the Vietnamese border in Svay Rieng province’s Bavet town, is scheduled to begin construction this year.

The government is also looking at a fourth expressway – following the proposed Phnom Penh-Siem Reap Expressway – connecting the capital to the Thai border in Banteay Meanchey province’s Poipet town.