Following a surge in Covid-19 cases in the country, President Museveni on Sunday directed that inter-district movement be closed for 42 days in an attempt to stem the spread of the pandemic.
The announcement saw hundreds of people rushing to various public transport terminals in a bid to travel to various destinations before June 11 when the ban takes effect.
This mad dash for public transport has, however, resulted in many transport operators hiking prices, especially for those leaving Kampala.
By yesterday morning, transport fares of vehicles destined for western region from Kampala had increased by between 20 and 50 per cent.
The fare from Kampala to Mubende costs Shs40,000, Kampala-Kyegegwa cost Shs50,000, Kampala-Kyenjojo Shs50,000, Kampala-Fort Portal costs Shs60,000, Kampala-Mugusu costs Shs60,000, Kampala-Kibiito costs Shs70,000, Kampala-Rwimi Shs70,000, while Kampala-Kasese costs Shs70,000.
Other routes with hiked rates include Kampala-Bwera Shs70,000, Kampala-Karugutu/Bundibugyo/ Nyahuka Shs70,000, Kampala-Hoima Shs40,000, Kampala-Masindi Shs40,000, and Kampala-Kagadi Shs50,000.
Mr Elisa Karamagi, the manager of Link Bus Company, told this newspaper that transport fares increased due to the huge number of travellers.
"Previously, we were charging Shs40,000 for the jouney from Kampala because we were sending empty busses from upcountry to Kampala to pick people who are traveling to upcountry. We also had to observe social distancing while in transit," Mr. Karamagi said.
Mr Andrew Gabondi, a taxi operator in Buliisa Town, said they were charging travellers Shs25,000 from Shs15,000 to travel from Hoima to Buliisa due to the rush.
Mr Yosamu Rwomwaka, one of the travellers, said: "We cannot predict what mzee (President Museveni) can decide anytime from now. It is better I take my family to the village when there is still some means of transport."
A similar scenario is occurring in Ankole Sub-region where transport fares have almost doubled.
A journey from Mbarara to Rubirizi, which usually costs Shs15,000 has climbed to Shs30,000, Mbarara to Kasese shot to Shs50,000 from Shs25,000, Mbarara to Kampala now cost Shs50,000 from Shs 30,000 while Mbarara to Masaka jumped from Shs20,000 to Shs30,000.
Mbarara-Bushenyi shot from Shs10,000 to Shs20000, Mbarara -Ntungamo shot from Shs8,000 to Shs20,000, Mbarara-Kabale from Shs25,000 to Shs40,000, Mbarara-Ibanda from Shs10,000 to Shs20,000, Mbarara-Mubende from Shs40,000 to Shs50,000 while Mbarara -Rukungiri rose from Shs15,000 to Shs30,000.
At the Soroti Bus Park, the number of passengers especially those travelling to districts in the central region, Karamoja and Lango areas overwhelmed transporters. Under normal circumstances, a bus is supposed to carry between 60 and 67 passengers. However, buses at Soroti Bus Park loaded passengers beyond capacity while others stood while in transit.
Although transport charges from Soroti to Kampala was maintained at Shs40,000, those from Soroti to Kabong rose to Shs60,000, to Kotido Shs40,000, and to Karenga Shs70,000 and to Moroto Shs30,000.
Passengers, who travelled from Soroti to Busia, were charged Shs30,000 and Soroti to Gulu Shs40,000.
Those who failed to secure seats forced themselves into the buses that were waiting for departure time and stood in the corridor and entrance.
Mr Kasim Toloi, the manager of Gateway Bus Company, said the rush and struggle for transport services was a result of limited time to travel.
"The number of passengers is overwhelming and given the situation of Covid-19, everybody is struggling to beat the deadline set by the President to reach their destinations in time and the buses are few," Mr Toloi said.
The transport rates were unstable although some bus companies maintained the previous transport fares that were set during the first induced lockdown which resulted from the first strain of Covid 19.
Ms Lilian Akello, a conductor with Gateway Bus Company, said only those with tickets booked in advance could be given seats.
On the Northern Uganda routes, transport fares hiked by at least 50 per cent.
Homeland, Larem Travel and Makome Bus Operators were charging passengers Shs60,000 and Shs70,000 to travel to Gulu and Kitgum districts, respectively whereas travellers going to Kampala were charged the previous fare of Shs40,000.
Rates for Kampala to Masindi increased to Shs40,000, Kampala-Kagadi Shs 50,000, Kampala-Kigumba Shs40,000, Kampala-Kyatiri via Kigumba Shs40,000, Kampala-Pakanyi via Kigumba Shs40,000.
Mr Nick Ojara, a taxi operator, said passengers were fighting each other in order to secure the limited seats.
"A passenger comes with Shs90,000 and wants you to secure for them a seat to Gulu while others are paying Shs50,000. The ones with more money were getting seats faster and it is an advantage to us. Tickets and bookings are not working anymore with this emergency travel," Mr Ojara said.
Mr Ojara said transport fares from Gulu District to Masindi and Kigumba had increased to Shs45,000 and Shs30,000, respectively.
Although fares to Kitgum and Pader towns from Gulu climbed to Shs25,000 and Shs30,000 respectively from Shs20,000 and Shs22,000, fares to West Nile routes had hiked to Shs60,000 and Shs45,000 for Arua and Nebbi district, respectively from the previous Shs50,000 and Shs30,000.
It is also established that fares to and from West Nile region have also hiked.
For example, Arua to Kampala now costs Shs90,000 from Shs 50,000, Kampala to Moyo- costs Shs180,000 from Shs90,000, Kampala to Adjumani now costs Shs 170,000 from Shs 90,000 while Kampala to Yumbe costs Shs 100,000 from Shs 60,000.
Although the fares have hiked to more than double the original rates, scores of passengers traveling from Kampala to West Nile region were stranded on Monday after they failed to secure seats in buses.
Mr Joseph Odama, one of the stranded travellers, said: "We are completely stuck here with my colleagues who were here for a training. The buses are charging between Shs 70,000 and Shs 90,000 to Arua but you cannot get any seat."
He said they tried to find alternative means but the charges are exorbitant.
"The drones and taxis are charging passengers Shs120,000 and it is on first come and first serve basis. And there are no negotiations. And they are congested which puts people's lives at risk," he said.
Another passenger, Ms Juliet Ogen, said the buses are charging Shs60,000 to Nebbi a hike from Shs 35,000.
"This is day time robbery because even some of the bus managers did not understand the Presidential directive. They are taking advantage of us the poor to charge us highly just because we want to reach home," Ms Ogen said.
Mr Richard Owaa, the manager of YY Coaches in Apac District, said they were charging Shs50,000 for passengers travelling from Kampala to Apac, and that the company did not increase its fares.
"We have not increased the transport fares and we shall maintain that fees," he said yesterday.
But Comfort Travel, another company plying the same route, doubled its fares by 100 per cent.
Mr Fred Odur, the driver of Comfort Travel, confirmed that their company is charging travellers Shs80,000 up from Shs40,000.
DESTINATION OLD FARE NEW FARE
Kampala-Kyegegwa Shs30,000 Shs50,000
Kampala-Kyenjojo, Shs45,000 Shs50,000
Kampala-Fort portal Shs40,000 Shs60,000
Kampala-Kibiito Shs45,000 Shs70,000
Kampala-Ruhimi Shs45,000 Shs70,000
Kampala-Kasese Shs50,000 Shs70,000
Kampala-Bwera Shs50,000 Shs70,000
Kampala-Bundibugyo Shs50,000 Shs70,000
Kampala-Masindi Shs30,000 Shs40,000
Hoima-Buliisa Shs15,000 Shs25,000
Mbarara-Rubirizi Shs15,000 Shs30,000
Mbarara-Kasese Shs25,000 Shs50,000
Mbarara-Kampala Shs30,000 Shs50,000
Mbarara-Masaka Shs20,000 Shs30,000
Mbarara-Bushenyi Shs10,000 Shs20,000
Mbarara-Ntungamo Shs8,000 Shs20,000
Mbarara-Kabale Shs25,000 Shs40,000
Mbarara-Ibanda Shs10,000 Shs20,000
Mbarara-Mubende Shs40,000 Shs50,000
Mbarara-Rukungiri Shs15,000 Shs30,000
Lyantonde-Masaka Shs5,000 Shs50,000
Mityana-Kampala Shs20,000 Shs20,000
Luweero-Kampala Shs10,000 Shs15,000
Jinja-Kampala Shs12,000 Shs25,000
Mpigi-Gomba Shs10,000 Shs20,000
Kampala-Gomba Shs20,000 Shs30,000
Kampala-Gulu and back Shs40,000 Shs70,000
Kampala-Kitgum Shs50,000 Shs90,000
Compiled by Alex Ashaba,
Andrew Mugati, George Muron,
Bill Oketch, Santo Ojok,
Felix Warom Okello, Scovin Iceta,
Felix Ainebyoona, Rajab Mukombozi, & Tobbias Jolly Owiny.