Plans for a pan-Asian railroad have been in the works for decades, but today marked the first step toward linking a massive railway line from Singapore to Southwest China and beyond. It’s called the Singapore-Kunming Rail Link (SKRL), and will connect domestic lines within several Southeast Asian nations. It spans 3,000 miles, connecting Singapore all the way to the Southwestern city of Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province.
While a majority of Southeast Asia’s countries already have established rail lines that can be linked with relative ease, Cambodia remains the missing link. The Asian Development Bank is putting in $84 million and the Australian government is putting in another $21.5 million to close the gap–funds that will focus on repairing and re-constructing a crucial segment of the line, which falls in rural regions of Cambodia.
“The railway rehabilitation project is a vital component of the Greater Mekong Subregion’s southern economic corridor – linking Thailand, Cambodia and Viet Nam – and is a key component of ASEAN’s Singapore-Kunming Rail Link Project,” reports ADB.
There are 404 miles of railway lines that need urgent repair and construction, stretching from Cambodia’s border with Thailand all the way through the capital, Pnom Penh, and then to the seaport of Sihanoukville, which is scheduled to be completed by 2013.
“We are on the cusp of a contiguous Iron Silk Road stretching from Singapore to Scotland,” said ADB’s Director General for Southeast Asia, Kunio Senga.
According to ADB, there is just one more link in the Pan-Asian railway that must be fixed before it is complete–from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City, in Vietnam. China is said to be sponsoring a feasibility test of a railway line between Phnom Penh and Loc Ninh, Vietnam, and Cambodia has already signed an agreement to link its railway system with Vietnam’s.
Follow me, Jenara Nerenberg, on Twitter.