The Uganda Taxi Operators and Drivers Association (Utoda) has announced a plan to introduce metropolitan buses, which in effect will kick start the phasing out of commuter-taxis that have been a part of Kampala's transport system for last 25 years.
The move to bring buses is intended to curb Kampala's traffic jam. Should Utoda roll out its buses, it will be the second company to run bus services in Kampala. The other is Pioneer Easy Bus. Speaking to The Observer, Utoda's National Chairman John Ndyomugyenyi said they are already trying out the new system with three buses on different routes of Kampala.
"We are currently testing the Chinese buses, and then we shall test Tata buses from India, Benz from Germany and Isuzu from Japan," Ndyomugyenyi said.
Once operationalised, Ndyomugenyi said, the taxis would move out of the Kampala metropolitan area to transporting passengers from villages to various bus terminals on the outskirts of the city. The buses would also be equipped with special security cameras to curtail any mischief, Ndyomugenyi said.
The buses are so far being tested on routes such as Gayaza, Ntinda, Mukono, Kiwatule, Najjera, Kyaliwajala, Ntebe, Kajjansi, Nakawa, Wakiso, Kakiri, Nsangi and Bombo roads. The fares range between Shs 500 and Shs 1,000. Ndyomugyenyi said more buses were on the way. "We are planning to purchase 100 buses in the first five-year development plan and another 100 in the second five years," Ndyomugyenyi said.
The first batch of about 20 buses will be here within four months. In the long run, Ndyomugenyi said, these buses will operate 24 hours. Each bus will be manned by three government-certified drivers and turn-boys working in shifts of eight hours.
Asked about funding, Ndyomugenyi said they would get support from Utoda's Sacco, which has more than 3,000 members. "We call upon investors who want to buy shares in our SACCO to support our project," Ndyomugyenyi said.
The buses will also have special sections for different groups of people including the pregnant mothers, disabled and the elderly. In the future, Utoda will also use a swipe smart card system instead of cash. The cards will vary from daily, weekly, month or yearly.
Utoda dominated the public transport industry here for at least twenty years until the inception of Kampala Capital City Authority that exposed a racket in which Utoda officials were not only cheating KCCA but also its own members.