In 2014, Prime Minister Hun Sen declared the government’s intent to launch a public bus service in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s bustling, congested capital city.
But since the launch, it has come under fire for long waiting times. Now, the government says it has secured 100 new buses from China, which it hopes will allow for the expansion of services and satisfied customers.
Srey Ny, a student, was one of many Phnom Penh residents who chose to take the bus since the service launched, lured by free transport her student status affords her. “I have to force myself to get up earlier, about one hour before class starts,” says Ny, a freshman at the National University of Management, adding that the buses were often running behind schedule.
Another passenger, who gave her name as Polin, said the long waiting times were frustrating, resulting in late arrivals at work and classes. “Walking to the bus stop is not the reason I am late. The time the buses arrive is the main cause of my mood being spoiled.”
In an attempt to improve things, the Chinese government has donated 100 new buses, according to Met Measpheakdey, a City Hall spokesman.
The new buses are expected to further reduce traffic congestion, lower the number of accidents and pollution levels, said Khoeung Sreng, the newly appointed Phnom Penh governor.
However, road safety expert Ear Chakriya said further steps would need to be taken to improve Phnom Penh’s roads, including creating pedestrian walkways and keeping the public buses clean.
“If these issues are not solved, the city’s buses will not be the prioritized transport... even though the number of buses is increasing,” he said.
At present there are about 100 bus stops along three routes through the city, but during rush hour the roads are congested leading many to opt for swifter options to get around the traffic jams.
Measpheakdey, the City Hall spokesman, said: “We admit that there are still some mistakes that require changes and we are prepared to make them better, including the problems on buses, with drivers and services.”
The number of vehicles on Phnom Penh’s streets has risen to more than 2 million, according to official figures, which show the cost of congestion to the capital’s economy was in the region of $6 million per month in 2015.
The public bus system, which was resumed in 2014 after a failed pilot project in 2001, is used by up to 8,000 Cambodians each day.