The clock at the entrance to Battambang Train Station says 8.02. In most countries that would mean rush hour and thousands of passengers cramming themselves onto trains for their daily commute but not here. Battambang Railway Station is now just a ruin. Since the cessation of train services in 2009 it has been allowed to fall into a state of disrepair, but with some investment and a touch of TLC can easily be renovated and brought back into use.
I wandered around the sidings looking at the dilapidated buildings, the engine sheds, and the water refill pump and peered at the bent rusty overgrown tracks going off into the distance and just thought “what a waste of a good asset “. I could imagine this place full of noise and life but instead there was just an eerie silence.
There is still some life at the station. Some of the station buildings have been taken over by squatters needing a place to live. No doubt they will be asked politely to move on when and if the time does come that Battambang Station becomes operational again.
Before the Cambodian Civil War there was a train that ran from Phnom Phen to Poipet on the Thai border via Battambang. The line was built by the French between 1930 and 1940 but after the civil war it ran into disrepair and overtime the trains stopped running as the tracks were so badly maintained it became too dangerous and there were frequent derailings. All train traffic was eventually suspended in 2009
With Australian backing and finance plans have been drawn up to lay new track from Phnom Phen to Poipet and also south to Sihanoukville on the coast. Rumours are that trains will be running again by the end of 2012 or early 2013.
I just love trains and when i was visiting Battambang in June took a ride on the Bamboo Railway. Some entrepreneurs made a platform out of bamboo loaded it onto 2 sets of detachable wheels, added what looks like a lawnmower engine and a fan belt and Voila!! you have what is known as the Bamboo Railway. Its not only a brilliant idea for attracting tourists but the railway also enables people living in the outlying villages to easily come into town for shopping and also carry their goods home.
I wonder what will happen to the Bamboo railway. It is using the track bed of the line to Poipet. Somehow i just cannot see these little individual trains being allowed to continue running on the same track as the mainline trains.Hopefully the powers that be will find a solution.
Just think…….Once the planned extension to Vietnam is also finished, it will be possible to travel all the way from London to Singapore by train via Moscow, Beijing and Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. What a ride that will be!!!!!