During the first three weeks of January, the Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway saw between 260,000 and 270,000 vehicles travelling on the toll route. And in the first two months when tolls were collected – November and December – the company that built and operates the expressway earned an estimated $5 million.

The expressway was opened as a toll road from November 1, 2022 with a 20 per cent discount for one year after the Ministry of Public Works and Transport and the company – China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) – first launched it with a free trial for the whole month of October.

Ministry spokesman Heang Sotheayut told The Post on January 23 that the firm had earned more than $5 million as of the end of December. Revenues for January are yet to be finalised, he said, noting that a total of around 270,000 vehicles used the road in the 22 days of the month with an average of 10,000 vehicles on a normal day.

“In the 22 days, there were about 20 accidents. If we compare it with the traffic on other roads, especially National Road 4, it is very different and there is less serious danger causing loss of life because the traffic runs in parallel directions with road dividers and proper safety barriers,” he said.

During the period of the Lunar New Year holiday, Sothearyut said the number of vehicles increased to almost three times the average for a normal day, with more than 30,000 vehicles per day.

“Overall, the traffic has increased in these two days over the holiday. There are a lot of people travelling from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville and back. We see that the figures on the 22nd of January was about 24,000 vehicles while the normal working day is only about 10,000 vehicles,” he said.

He said the growth was up to 2.5 times and was expected to increase to between 25,000 and 30,000 vehicles per day on the last day of the holiday because the rate of advance payment in the system was high.

On January 22, the company rejected claims that there was any traffic congestion on the road and urged people not to post false reports. The company said that despite the more than doubling of traffic, congestion was not a problem for travel on the road.

“We still find some ill-intentioned people sharing videos of traffic jams that occurred in the past on social media to confuse the public. These acts have a huge impact on our company,” it said.

The company said it had taken some measures to reduce temporary congestion during heavy traffic by adding LED lights on the ANPR lanes to make it more clearly visible and by adding more signs before reaching the ETC and ANPR lanes for the convenience of commuters intending to use both lanes.

The company will also install road markings dividing the three lanes including ETC, ANPR and MTC.

Sotheayut claimed that the cause of occasional congestion is due to a small number of drivers who do not respect traffic signs and cause nuisance because they do not understand the system yet, but most drivers are now becoming more aware of how to use the ETC, ANPR and MTC lanes.

He called on the road users to understand and respect the use of priority lanes at the expressway entrances and exits, and encouraged drivers to use the ETC and ANPR lanes, which require a prepaid balance through mobile banking apps from their partner financial institutions.

According to the ministry report, from October 1 to January 22, the total number of vehicles that used the expressway was 1,378,058 – of which 437,381 were in the first month of October. During the service charge period from November 1to January 22, there were another 940,677 vehicles.