In the first nine days of the free month-long trial of the Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway, more than 100,000 vehicles passed through, with officials recording a steady increase in the number of travellers to the coastal province.

On October 9, the Preah Sihanouk Provincial Administration announced that about 110,000 local and international tourists visited Sihanoukville over the weekend.

The increase in tourists was attributed to the launch of the expressway, along with improved infrastructure and security and a beautiful environment, said administration spokesman Long Dimanche.

“There has been a lot of interest from people wanting to try the expressway. They are very pleased with the ease of travel on the new road, along with the beautiful scenery,” he told The Post on October 10.

He claimed that it was unprecedented for more than 100,000 tourists to visit the province on a non-national holiday weekend. The provincial administration has instructed all officials and relevant departments to pay close attention to the safety of people visiting Sihanoukville.

“This trend is very exciting for us. In the past we would only receive this number of visitors on occasions such as Pchum Ben or Khmer New Year. For us to see this many tourists on a regular weekend is unprecedented. The public seem to be very pleased with the new expressway, especially while it is free of charge,” he said.

The Ministry of Public Works and Transport have declared the expressway free to use from October 1-31. Drivers will be charged $12 for a one-way trip in its first year of operation.

The nearly 200km road passes through Kandal, Kampong Speu and Koh Kong provinces and takes about two hours to travel from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville, as opposed to between four and six hours previously via National Road 4.

Ministry spokesman Heang Sotheayuth told The Post that up to 16,000 vehicles had used the new road each day, with increased traffic on weekends. He claimed that the use of the expressway continued to increase, with more and more people keen to experience the new road to visit one of the country’s main tourist destinations.

“On Saturday and Sunday, the entrance to the expressway was a bit congested, as so many people were trying to use the new road. Currently, we are only opening two out of eight entrances, as we are still in the testing phase and our staff are undergoing safety training,” he said.

In addition to the weekend congestion, he said there had only been a small number of minor problems, all of which had been addressed by the teams patrolling the expressway.

“There were a few cases of animals getting onto the road’s verges. We have advised people not to cut fences or graze cattle alongside the road. This education campaign will require some time and understanding, and a gentle attitude on behalf of the authorities,” he said.