Photo taken in Kampong Speu, Cambodian on March 22, 2019 shows construction machineries line up during the groundbreaking ceremony of the expressway connecting capital Phnom Penh to the southwestern seaport province of Preah Sihanoukof. (Xinhua/Mao Pengfei)
by Nguon Sovan, Mao Pengfei
KAMPONG SPEU, Cambodia, March 22 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen said here on Friday that the 2-billion-U.S.-dollar Chinese-invested expressway will play a crucial role to boost the economic development of Cambodia and to improve people's livelihoods.
Speaking at a groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of a 190-km expressway stretching from capital Phnom Penh to the deep-sea port province of Preah Sihanouk, Hun Sen said the super highway is the first of its kind in Cambodia.
He said the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) is investing about two billion U.S. dollars for the project, which will be taken four years to be constructed, starting from March 2019 to March 2023.
"On behalf of the Cambodian government, I'd like to express my profound gratitude to the Chinese government for supporting this project, and to the CRBC for investing in it," he said.
The expressway will be built on a Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) model, he said, adding that when it is operational, the firm will collect tolls from road users based on the sizes and types of vehicles.
"This expressway is very important to connect the country's first economic pole, Phnom Penh, to the second economic pole, Sihanoukville," Hun Sen said.
"We believe that it will become an importantly strategic road that will contribute to boosting Cambodia's economic growth."
The prime minister said that the thoroughfare will increase logistics efficiency in the country, and reduce cost of goods transportation and travel period.
"Currently, travel between the two destinations takes about five hours, but when the expressway is built, it will take only two and a half hours," he said.
Meanwhile, Hun Sen said China's progress has not only given direct benefits to the Chinese people, but also provided advantages to other developing countries, especially those along the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Speaking at the event, visiting Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou said as a good brother, friend, partner, and neighbor of Cambodia, China attached great importance to the development of relations with Cambodia based on the principle of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit.
"I believe that the Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville expressway will not only provide enormous benefits to the Cambodian people, but also be a road of friendship and cooperation between China and Cambodia," he said.
Kong said China has so far built more than 3,000 km of roads and eight large bridges in Cambodia and that Chinese aid and investment to Cambodia are "sincere", aiming at supporting the country's socio-economic development and poverty reduction.
He said the super highway project was born of cooperation between China and Cambodia under the BRI.
Cambodian Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol said the expressway will connect Phnom Penh's Pursenchey district to the southwestern coastal province of Preah Sihanouk through Kandal, Kampong Speu, and Koh Kong provinces.
"It is a strategic road and is the most important breath of Cambodia's economy," he said.
He said the super highway will reduce traffic from National Road No. 4, which is the busiest road connecting Phnom Penh to the deep-sea port province of Preah Sihanouk.
"It will play an important role in enhancing the efficiency of goods transportation and logistics system in Cambodia," Chanthol said.
"Also, it will facilitate companies and people in transporting their products to local markets or to international markets through the international deep-sea port."
The expressway will have two lanes for each direction and vehicles can travel with a speed of 3000 km per hour.
When it is open for traffic, the firm will not collect tolls for all kinds of vehicles for the first month, and then, it will offer a 20-percent discount for the first year, the minister said.
CRBC's chairman Lu Shan said the project is a testament to the solid friendship between China and Cambodia, and is the alignment between China's BRI and Cambodia's Rectangular Strategy.
During the construction, the expressway will create 6,000 jobs for Cambodians, and in the operational period, it will provide more than 2,000 jobs, he said.
Lu said the project will be environment-friendly and the company will train local staff in the majors of road construction and maintenance, and business administration.