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Transport in Cambodia

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Square Down Arrow Icon Roads and Highways

Square Down Arrow Icon Urban Transport
Square Down Arrow Icon Rural Transport
Square Down Arrow Icon Railways
Square Down Arrow Icon Inland Waterways
Square Down Arrow Icon Ports and Shipping
Square Down Arrow Icon Air Transport

As a post-conflict country, Cambodia is struggling to rebuild many of the economic, social, and physical foundations needed to ensure future growth and development. Since 1992 the World Bank has provided the country with technical expertise, more than US$645.2 million in loans and grants, and about US$90 million in trust funds to support efforts to reduce poverty and promote economic growth.

The Bank contributed to the building or rebuilding of rural roads (a major strategic development priority of the Government), and helped to establish guidelines for future transport sector reform through the Road Rehabilitation Project. A transport strategy adopted in 2002 provided some clarification regarding management roles for national, provincial, and rural roads. This has enhanced coordination between the relevant government ministries.

Despite these improvements, the quality of transport infrastructure remains a serious constraint to growth. A road maintenance fund was established in 2002 based on revenues from tax on fuel but an effective mechanism for management of the funds has yet to be established.

It is important that Cambodia continue to invest in its transport infrastructure, and that it looks at methods for ensuring adequate financing and effective delivery of services.

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Roads and Highways

Cambodia’s road network measures approximately 38,257 km including 4,757 km of national roads and 5,700 km of provincial roads under the responsibility of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, and 27,800 km of tertiary roads under the responsibility of the Ministry of Rural Development.

The network has a major effort at rehabilitation since the mid 1990s. Road condition surveys in 2005 indicate that 40 percent of the network is in good and fair condition, 52 percent in poor condition, and eight percent in bad condition.

Cambodia’s road transport industry is still embryonic and inefficient, reflecting the poor state of the network, years of civil disturbance and comparatively low levels of transport demand. The fleet is fragmented, with only a few groups professionally managed and capable of investing in modern equipment. Most goods are carried on old, overloaded trucks with low levels of utilization. In more isolated regions, goods are transported mainly by motorcycle and animal-drawn vehicles.

There were 84,000 four-wheel vehicles and 248,000 motorcycles registered in 2003, but unregistered vehicles and motorcycles are reported to account for about 20 and 30 percent of the respective fleets, bringing the total to just over 100,000 four-wheel vehicles (about 102,810 light vehicles and 17,880 heavy vehicles) and 326,310 motorcycles. At 0.8 four-wheel vehicles per 100 people, vehicle ownership is very low.

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Urban Transport

The Cambodia urban transport infrastructure was severely damaged and/or neglected during the years of fighting. In Cambodia, all urban transport is road based and traffic volumes are growing rapidly, especially in Phnom Penh and Siam Reap. Public transport is limited to buses as there are no subways in the country.

There is no formally adopted road and road transport policy in Cambodia, and this particularly affects urban road transport. Phnom Penh has emerging congestion problems and there is a need for a strategic transport policy to set the proper framework. This needs to consider factors such as facilities for non-motorized traffic, the role of rail, and private sector involvement, especially in the area of establishing road tolls. There is also a need to ensure sufficient finance for urban road maintenance as well as paving unpaved roads in urban areas.

Rural Transport

Cambodia TransportRoad traffic levels are also low, suppressed by poor road conditions, low incomes, and a vehicle fleet expanding from a low base. Traffic was grown rapidly since the late 1980’s as these constraints are being removed.


The Royal Cambodian Railway comprises two single-track main lines of meter gauge which carries passenger and freight traffic. With little traffic using the rail lines, individuals run their own private 'bamboo trains' which are small locally made units for carrying limited passengers and freight.

The rail distance from Phnom Penh to Bangkok was 655 km, however, the line is no longer completed. The Northern line runs from Phnom Penh for 385 km to the Thai border at Poipet. Since 1961, there has been a 15 km gap between the Poipet station and the Thai station of Aranyaprathet. Since the early 1970s the last 48 km from Sisophon to the Thai border has been disused. The Northern line was originally intended to be part of a through route linking Bangkok with Saigon, however, the Cambodia part of the Phnom Penh-Saigon section was never started.

The Southern line connects Phnom Penh to the port of Sihanoukville, about 253 km from Phnom Penh. The line was built between 1960 and 1969 but is not in very good condition at present.

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Inland Waterways

Inland waterways include the Mekong and Sab rivers, and Tonle Sap. Phnom Penh is some 100 km from the Vietnam border by river, but the bends of the river prevents the passage of vessels more than 110m long.

Boats up to 150 tonne capacity can be used as far as Kratie. Larger boats can be used at high water. Between Kratie and Stung Treng 50 tonne boats can pass without difficulty in the rainy season but at low water levels the rocky conditions limit passable to smaller vessels of up to 20 tonnes. Above Stung Treng to Veunkham just across the Lao border only small boats can pass some 10-15 tonnes at low water and perhaps 50 tonnes a high water.

In recent years it has been reported that the flows in the Mekong river have been decreasing. This is further constraining river transport on this important artery.

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Ports and Shipping

Constructed in the 1950’s and 1960’s, Sihanoukville is the main deep water sea port. The road links between Sihanoukville and the rest of the Cambodia, especially Phnom Penh, have been improved in recent years which have increased the effectiveness of the port activities. Phnom Penh’s port is on the Mekong River so access is through the delta in Vietnam and through Ho Chi Minh City.

Cambodia’s third port is Koh Kong which is situated near the Thailand border. This is only used by smaller vessels.

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Air Transport

Cambodia has ten airports, including Phnom Penh International Airport (Pochentong Airport) and Siem Reap Airport, the gateway to Angkor Wat, which serves international flights.

The Société Concessionnaire de l’Aéroport (SCA) is a special purpose company that holds a 25-year concession (from 1995) from the Government of Cambodia to manage and operate the Pochentong and Siem Reap Airports. Some parts of the operation of the two airports are delegated to Cambodia Airport Management Services Limited under an operating agreement with SCA. A major improvement program in 2003-07 is planned, funded in part by the International Finance Corporation:

  • US$23.2 million to upgrade the facilities of Pochentong Airport (runway lengthening and widening, construction of a parallel taxiway, expansion of apron and warehouse facilities and modernization of the airport operating equipment);
  • US$23.9 million for Siem Reap Airport (major repairs of the runway and taxiway, extension of the taxiway and aprons, construction of a new terminal building, modernization of the airport operational equipment and construction of a new cargo warehouse).

More Information:
blue arrow Country Assistance Strategy
blue arrow Millennium Development Goals
blue arrow Country Website

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