Crossing Cambodia

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Chasing Cars, Cambo style, 10 December 2008

Much to mention so to see, but in reality?
  • The stuff dreams are made of. Elevated rail. Elevated roadways. That's the answer of growing traffic congestion according to the government. We could have these be as early as eight years from now,
    'but project lacks money [yours for 300 million $] and must look to donors, private sector for funds'.
    And they are not forthcoming. That sucks.
    But is it a real answer? The opposition think not:
    '"I think the sky train project is not a priority. The government should focus on rural infrastructure," said Mu Sochua, deputy secretary general of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party'.
    There's some value in that. Even high ranking officials are skeptical:
    "If [it] materialises, it could make only a small change in congestion due to the fact that are more vehicles on the roads and there is ignorance of traffic laws," said Phnom Penh Traffic Police Chief Tin Prasoeur'.
    Growth of vehicles according citations in this Phnom Penh Post
    article has been phenomenal, a tripling in the last few years.
    Indeed a single rail link won't change much. And in the meantime there still is a lot of growth to deal with. So maybe what's required is a multi-track approach.
    Gridlock in Phnom Penh is partially due to non-adherence to traffic rules: driving the wrong way down one-way streets, ignoring traffic lights, haphazard parking, poor awareness of users to proper way of driving (taking left lane and then turning right is one that springs to mind). At the same time those concerned with enforcing the rules are not at all interested.
    Then there is poor planning. For instance north-south routes are lacking and one of these (Monivong) is currently being dug up. The alternative for this road (Street 63) is now also out of bounds as the great traffic roundabout that is the Central Market, is being used for market enhancements. That means that from south to north there is gridlock during rush hour.
    Furthermore there is no intermediate planning. Especially the Russian Boulevard could profit from fly-overs, thereby easing east-west traffic and forming less of barrier to North-South traffic. Other enhancements could be where Monireth crosses the Ring Road and where the (northern and eastern) bridges enter the city basically dropping all mayhem on the roundabouts at the foot of the bridges. Real city buses is also an idea, excluding certain vehicles from the city center.
    But could we expect a real plan?
  • More dreams, the PM still wants a national airline.
    But didn't Cambodia just sign all kinds of agreements with an Indonesian company to do so? What happened to the deal? Has it been shelved (as was expected).
    Wanting something doesn't always mean you gone get it. The future of airlines seems to be one with over-capacity, much to the delight of passengers. Now (as was 6 months ago) the wrong time to spread your wings.
    Possibly the government should focus it's air policy elsewhere, having no national airline means that other airlines may wish to start up new routes, if only to off-set poor loading factors and getting a one-up on the competition. The Lao for instance are inviting all and sun-dry to set up a route from Hong Kong to Vietiane.
    The authorities could also focus on the air safety regulations which with the recent Siem Reap Airways flop could encourage outsiders to fly within Cambodia.
  • The air industry in Cambodia is set to be enhanced, not by the PM but by the owner of Cambodia's main airports (SCA). A long interview with the prez of the company in Ka-set. On Sihanoukville:
    'We just have to attract airline companies, now ....
    If airline companies think there is a market there, they will come with their planes. The critical part is to build up the image of Sihanoukville, promote the destination and turn it into a more attractive place, particularly with the development of hotel infrastructures.'
    Don't hold your breath.
  • Had an accident? Just call 119, which connects you with Phnom Penh's least worst government hospital Calmette. This article on KI Media (originally from VOA) gives you some insight in Cambodia's new decrees concerning picking up traffic victims. The reasoning behind the new regulations:
    'For the safety of victims and avoiding the anarchic activities of grabbing customers, the ministry banned private clinics from sending their ambulances to take victims of accidents'.
    'The majority [of the clinics] have abided the directive'

    Which seems somehow of a reassurance. But the original decree referred to
    'promote a public ambulance service'
    But what is a public service? This comment on aforementioned link:
    'This directive creates more problem for the public because Calmet's ambulance staff are all corrupt. I am one of the victims of 119. Let me tell you the story. One of my foreign customer had heart attack in my shop. she fell down on the floor. Then, I call 119 of Calmet's hospital. They arrived 5 minutes later. However, what surprised me, you guess? They asked me (the owner of the shop) for $50 without negotiation. I had no choice because the condition of the patient is very critical. Unfortunately, her husband told me that she was dead on the way to hospital'.
  • More dreams:
    'The Ministry of Public Works and Transport said that so far, the restoration and repair of the two railroad lines from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville and from Phnom Penh to the Poipet border crossing with Thailand, ‘has not achieved any noticeable results, and the action is very slow.’
    The article continues to highlight all the features of Cambodia's rail upgrade, which has been contracted to take part in under two years.
  • License plate news:
    'The National Assembly issued a notice to the Minister of Public Works and Transport, Mr. Tram Iv Tek, on 4 December 2008, saying that the National Assembly allows the Ministry of Public work and Transport to take action to monitor and to seize number plates of private vehicles that use police and RCAF number plates'.
    Funny that, an article in the Cambodia Daily in February this year states that
    'Ministry of Public Works and Transport has now ordered all state, police and army license plates on private vehicles to be replaced with civilian plates by March 1'.
    So now the parliament is (belatedly) ordering the ministry around to do something which obviously they not so good in.
    'Police and RCAF number plates are often put on luxurious cars belonging to private individuals, and they are being driven everywhere and against many regulations, and with no respect for the law'.
  • Finally more on the road to Bokor. Here's Andy fuming:
    'We got it for $30 each, but it's still a rip-off! The Toyota wagon had 11 tourists on board, a driver and a guide. Nine of us held on tightly on the back of the pick-up for one of the most uncomfortable rides of my life, and I've had a few in Cambodia over the years. The road is being repaired, renovated, call it what you will but so far the Sokha Group, who have taken over the mountain as their own private playground for the foreseeable future, have done lots of preparatory work but practically none of the 30-odd kms up the mountain is anywhere near finished. I reckon it'll be years before it is. They've widened the road in places and it bodes well for the future, but that's a long way off and today, its a bumpy, rutted, pot-holed mess'.
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