The government yesterday reassured the public that the automated gateway transit (AGT) system, an electric-powered mass transit system that will link Phnom Penh’s city centre with its airport, will be built as planned, after rumors circulated recently that the project may had been cancelled.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Transport Minister Sun Chanthol said the AGT project is moving forward as planned, and that its feasibility study, which is being conducted in cooperation with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), will be ready in the next two years.

“The study will be finished this year or the next. JICA is being very thorough, and wants to have every detail planned before beginning construction,” the minister said.

The AGT, described as an environmentally friendly mass transit system, can travel at speeds of 60 kilometers per hour without emitting hazardous smoke. It requires less space and can easily be maneuvered in the city’s minor thoroughfares, the minister explained.

“It will modernise public transport in the city and help reduce traffic congestion.”

He said that claims that the Japanese government had withdrawn its support for the project were fabricated, and that the East Asian giant is still committed to financing the project with $800 million, thou it has not yet confirmed whether the money will be disbursed as a loan or a grant.

“We still need to discuss the issue of financing with the Japanese government, as we don’t know if they are thinking of giving us a loan or a grant,” he said.

“But, we are sure that Japan will help us.”

The minister said another meeting will be arranged this month between JICA and representatives of the Cambodian government to continue discussion on the feasibility study.

The minister said the AGT will run for 18 kilometres, starting in Central Market and ending at Phnom Penh International Airport.

“We are now studying the exact route that the AGT will follow. One thing we are sure of is that it will run underground for four kilometres as it approaches Phnom Penh Airport,” he said, adding that they are trying to find a route that does not traverse populated areas to minimise the social impact of the project.

“We want to make sure that compensation costs are kept at a minimum,” he added.

The minister said a similar project dubbed ‘sky train’ has been put on the table by an unnamed Chinese company.

“The Chinese company is going to conduct studies on a monorail system which they want to build under a build-operate-transfer contract.

“We will try to obtain government approval for this project, but first we need to make sure that it does not interfere or overlap with the AGT,” Mr Chanthol said.