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City Working To Keep Experimental Bus Route Running

A Security guard stands at a bus stop as Phnom Penh begins its trial for public bus service, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Phnom Penh launched the one-month pilot program with 10 air-conditioned buses traveling a single route with 36 stops through the city center. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
An experiment in public busing sponsored by the Japanese government ends tomorrow, but Phnom Penh officials say they want the service to continue.

The service will be handed over to the city and a Chinese company, so that 10 bus lines will keep running, but officials say they are not sure how long it will continue, and details on the new deal have not been released.

A similar project in 2001 was terminated due to lack of support and funding—but traffic in the capital has increased dramatically since then, so now a regular bus route has more fans.

“We’ve already chosen a private company, but we are now waiting for official signature day, which will take place soon,” said Long Dimanche, a spokesman for city government. Under the new deal, the project could increase its routes through the city, he said.

The public busing experiment, led by the Japan International Cooperation Agency, began in February. Over the past month, as many as 1,800 people per day used the service.

Pen Hour, a 61-year-old vendor at Ou Ruessei Market in the city, said she liked to travel by bus because it was more convenient and less expensive than other modes of transport. “It is safe and comfortable, and it is also cheap,” she said.

Sien Seit, 55, agreed, saying he preferred the bus to travel by tuk tuk or motorcycle taxi.

Over the monthlong pilot project, the number of passengers slowly increased, said driver Chhea Vichet. Students, workers and vendors all used the service, he said, especially in the evening, when his bus would be full. More routes would bring even more passengers, he said.