SMH: Toll to quit Cambodia rail plans

By Lindsay Murdoch, Mar. 14 2012, Sydney Morning Herald

AUSTRALIAN company Toll Group is set to pull out of a controversial $145 million project to rebuild Cambodia’s railways, reliable sources in Cambodia say.

Under an agreement signed in 2009, Toll and a Cambodian joint venture partner were to operate the railways for 30 years. The project, partly funded by the Australian aid agency AusAid, has been at the centre of claims that up to 4000 people living along the tracks are not being fully compensated for having to move. A Toll spokesman declined to comment.

The rebuilding of two decrepit rail lines linking the capital, Phnom Penh, with a southern port and with the Thai border in the west is strategically important. They were seen as part of a planned inter-country rail network linking Singapore and China through Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam.

The Toll Group had a 30-year contract in a joint venture with well-connected Cambodian businessman Kith Meng through his Royal Group of companies.

In November last year, Fairfax Media reported that a 13-year-old girl and her nine year-old brother drowned in a deep pool four days after their family was uprooted from their home and moved to a resettlement site so work could begin on the railway.