|March 17th, 2012, 12:36 AM||#81|
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What next for taxis in face of Pioneer competition?
By Joseph Mitti (email the author)
Posted Saturday, March 17 2012 at 00:00
A time to change. The monopoly of taxis in the city centre came to an excruciating end Monday when attempts to stage a strike over monthly fees charged by Kampala Capital City Authority was met with a rush roll out of the controversial Pioneer Easy buses to act as an emergency transport. Seeing the buses, the taxis called off their strike but have had to reduce fares to compete for passengers with the buses as the trend is setting new heights for the 14-seater commuters. But how will they sustain the competition?
The appearance of the orange and black Pioneer Easy Bus with blue plastic seats on city roads have caused excitement and city dwellers are itching to have a ride on them. For those who have done so, they are happy with the comfort and fixed fares it offers them.
Though their appearances on the streets were unceremonious following a strike by the taxi drivers operating within Kampala city, the Yutong-manufactured buses are expected to ease traffic congestion in the city and provide a reliable transport system.
The 500 buses, each of 60-passenger capacity (30 sitting, 30 standing) operate along Kampala Metropolitan area’s eastern route that covers Bweyogerere, Nakawa, Mukono, Kampala Road, Jinja Road, Bukoto, Naalya, Ntinda and Kiwatule, among others.
The buses come with many advantages. Besides having a passenger capacity that quadruples a typical 14-seater taxi; it is charging passengers almost half of what commuter taxis are currently charging in transport fares. The buses will also operate a fixed fare unlike taxi operators who seemingly hike fares according to the moods of a driver and his conductor. The buses are to replace the taxis.
For years, the transport network in Kampala have been run by Uganda Taxi Operators and Drivers Association but besides the transport, Utoda barely offered any other service. And after losing an application in the High Court last October, the Uganda Taxi Operators and Drivers Association (UTODA) also lost management of major taxi parks in the city to Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA).
KCCA, which now manages the city parks, is fully behind the buses. So, how do the taxis plan to survive?
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The taxi owners and drivers have vowed that they will not accept to be edged out of the lucrative transport business that many have run for more than three decades. The biggest measure that they have taken is to lower the fares to different destinations by more than 30 per cent.
Drivers vow to compete
Mr Christopher Mayambala, the chairpeson of Drivers and Conductors Central Association (DACCA), another umbrella body for taxi drivers, says they will not succumb to oppression. They are also ready to face competition.
“We are ready to compete with whoever joins the sector. These new challenges are only making us stronger,” Mr Mayambala said in an interview on Thursday.
“All along, we have been competing with special hires, boda-bodas, city-buses (those plying Entebbe Road). We accepted to resume work as we continue to express our displeasure with KCCA,” he added.
Though they do not have a concrete Plan B at the moment, taxi drivers say they are confident they will remain in the business.
“The buses are only plying major town routes, they don’t go to residential areas like taxis do,” said Mr Godfrey Kibuuka, a taxi driver.
Mr Kibuuka’s friend Matia Sentongo, also a driver, says they plan to move and operate in the suburbs once KCCA edges them out of the city centre. They also plan to have a stronger association to negotiate for certain routes accessing the city centre.
However, basing on how government and KCCA hurried to roll out the bus operations despite missing the minimum requirements, and a plan to have a separate lane for the buses, Mr Mayambala said their biggest fear is “about the favouritism the buses are likely to win from the powers that be.”
He alleged thatthe buses are over loading, load and offload in the middle of the roads, but that both the police and KCCA have turned a blind eye to the daylight flouting of traffic regulations.
To beat the buses to the game, the most evident measure taken by the taxis to survive in the business is to lower the fares.
This status quo clearly portrays the stiff competition the taxis, which have enjoyed monopoly of transporting people in and around the city for decades, are likely to face after Pioneer Easy buses and Rift Valley Railways fully operational.
Enter the Iron Snake
The train and buses started transporting commuters at a much lower fare on Monday when taxi drivers went on strike protesting new operational fees of Shs120,000 per month, KCCA set after court threw out Utoda from managing public transport.
Routes that have buses in operation include Entebbe, Masaka, Hoima and Gayaza roads. Others are Bweyogerere via Kireka, Ntinda Road and Bugolobi, among other places.
Meanwhile, the train operates from the city to Namanve – the border of Wakiso and Mukono districts.
However, reports from Rift Valley Railways indicate that it will soon start transporting people from the city centre to Luzira and Kyengera at a lower fee. Pioneer Easy Bus Company Limited also announced plans to double the number of buses currently plying city roads.
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According to KCCA spokesperson Peter Kaujju, the authorities are working out modalities to regulate the bus operations.
“Buses were hurried to manage the situation because the taxi drivers were on strike, but we are in the process of streamlining their operations,” Mr Kaujju said.
But Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago, who has publically criticised the introduction of the buses over the controversy surrounding its contract, insists that the roll-out of the buses is “illegal and shameful.”
“We are really disturbed and embarrassed by the manner in which the State and Jennifer Musisi (KCCA executive director) has handled the bus project. It’s now clear that the dictatorship in this country is at its height,” Mr Lukwago said.
“How do you put vehicles on the road without log books and number plates? The rule of law is no longer valued here; government is now applying the rule of the jungle,” he added.
But to passengers, the unexpected start of operation of the buses came as a relief as they can now negotiate with taxis for cheaper fares.
“Days of monopoly and high fares have come to an end,” Mr Hamza Kajoba, a city businessman, said.
Pioneer bus and RVR set the trend
The buses: So far, 60 buses have been cleared and have started operating on what KCCA and government called an “emergency” owing to taxi strikes that was called for when the buses were promptly rolled out.
Pioneer Easy Bus Company has invested over Shs23 billion ($10 million) in a fleet of 522 modern buses that will operate in the Kampala Metropolitan area and surrounding districts.
The company imported the first batch of 100 that arrived in Kampala last month. The remaining 422 units will be delivered by the end of this year. Kampala Capital City Authority has already designated 800 bus stages and bus stops in the greater Kampala Metropolitan.
Kampala City Council Authority has a five-year agreement with Pioneer Easy Bus to run the public transport in western and eastern parts of the city.
Pioneer Easy Bus is a transport company that was established in 2005.
According to the Pioneer Easy Bus Marketing Manager, Mr Herbert Odankie, the bus service is aimed at providing Ugandans with modern public transport services and will offer affordable and scheduled services to all city commuters.
The trains. On the same day the buses were unceremoniously rolled out, government agreed with the Rift Valley Railways to temporarily run passenger services. RVR, whose current contract signed in 2005 only mandates it to carry cargos, readily agreed to the plans and has been running two passenger services between Namanve and the city, morning and evening hours.
The current parks scenario
It is 7pm on a Thursday evening, darkness has engulfed the city and most people are retiring to their homes after work. At Total bus stop on Kampala Road, the situation is uncharacteristic.
The crowds that normally stage here to tussle for taxis that en-route to Bweyogerere, Kireka, Ntinda and Luzira – all Kampala suburbs- have extinct. The few passengers present, are lining-up to catch a ride in the two new Pioneer Easy buses parked adjacent to the company’s passenger canopy.
However, just a stone throw away from the buses, a number of taxis are strategically stationed and the touts call out to passengers and some even try to persuade people to abandon the buses.
One of the taxi drivers shouts out: “Leero teri byakwenyigirza. Ogenda nga mulambuzi paka Bweyogerere ku silingi lukumi mubitano,” ( No squeezing yourself today. You travel as a tourist to Bweyogerere at only Shs1,500)
Interesting is the fact that the taxis plying the routes have reduced the fare by Shs500 from the usual Shs2,000 charged for the journey between 7pm and 9pm to Bwoyogerere, Kireka, Kyambogo or Ntinda.
In the Old Taxi Park, the situation was not different. At 7pm, the park was still full but the stampede we normally face as we melee for the few taxis was no more. The taxis have brilliantly put up posts showing destinations and standard prices of taxis, which are habitually hidden at peak hours when they take the advantage to hike the fares. It took at least 30 minutes to fill the taxi I boarded to Najjanankumbi.
“If a vehicle can take this long to get full at this hour, it will be risky to make a return,” the driver said before hitting his door.
|March 17th, 2012, 10:58 PM||#82|
Join Date: Sep 2009
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KCCA To Reconstruct Old City Roads
First published: 20120313 1:56:37 PM EST
As the transport crisis in and around Kampala rages on, the city’s authority has earmarked funds to fully reconstruct roads in the central business district.
The 40 roads to be reconstructed by Multiplex Construction Company will cost KCCA 1.8 billion shillings.
According to Multiplex Technical Engineer, Richard Kyobe, there is need for a drainage master plan to ensure that there is clear flow of the water.
The roads to be worked on include, Nakivubo mews Ben Kiwanuka, Burton street, , Backstone street among others