We shall not fight Tondeka Metro buses! Taxi drivers, other public transport stakeholders endorse new system

One of the Tondeka Metro buses. The buses will only take prepaid payments from passengers through a bus card at UGX.1,200 for a single route

KAMPALA — Stakeholders in the public transport sector have confirmed their readiness to fully support Tondeka Metro buses—an initiative aimed at improving urban transport services in and around Kampala capital city.

A total of 980 Ashok Leyland buses from Hinduja Group, India are going to be imported starting this year to kick start a safe, reliable and affordable public transport system in Kampala metropolitan.

The buses which will be known as Tondeka will initially ply Kampala-Mukono, Kampala-Nsangi, Kampala-Buloba, Kampala-Wakiso, Kampala-Matugga and Kampala-Ggaba routes. They will be managed by Uganda Development Corporation (UDC).

During a grant stakeholders meeting that took place in Kampala on Thursday, Mustafa Mayambala, the chairperson of Uganda Transport Development Agency (UTRADA), said as taxi operators they are ready to work with Tondeka Metro buses to sanitize public transport means in the city.

“We have had such projects like city link, easy buses, Wakula Enumme, Pioneer buses but they did not work out simply because they made one major mistake of leaving us out,” said Mayambala.

Adding, “….And since Tondeka decided to bring us on board as key stakeholders; definitely we are going to work with them to ensure that the initiative is a success.”

He also revealed that they were first briefed by President Yoweri Museveni in 2015 about the need to have an improved public transportation system.

“When we met the president, he told us that we shouldn’t fear change before assuring us that we were to be made top priority as far as the whole transition process was concerned. I’m happy to say that Tondeka has involved us in all steps. We are ready for change.”

Mayambala also cautioned Tondeka Metro against sidelining taxi operators when it comes to giving out jobs.

“As leaders we are protecting the interests of our members. We shall not allow people from outside to take our jobs. We also have professionals in the transport industry. We want our qualified people to take all the available positions.”

On the other hand, Dr Peter Kimbowa, the Tondeka Metro Board Chairman assured taxi operators that the initiative will create more than 20,000 jobs with them [taxi operators] being highly prioritized.

“I want to assure everybody that this is a presidential initiative. When we met with him, one of the issues he pointed out was to protect the interest of taxi drivers and owners. Taxi operators will be catered for first in terms of jobs,” he said.

Dr Kimbowa further disclosed that the first bunch of buses will arrive in Uganda in September this year.

“We shall first receive 400 buses in September then 200 each month until we make a total of 980 buses.

“These buses are going to operate in a more civilized way; all kind of people will be catered for, the young, the old, sick and the disabled. They are cheap, affordable, accessible and safe.”

Gen Edward Katumba Wamala, the Minister for works and Transport noted that Tondeka Metro initiative has come in a right time when Ugandans are tired of the current disorganized transport system.

“It is this disorganization in the transport sytem that forced parliament yesterday to pass the Traffic and Road Safety Act 1998 (Amendment) Bill. And I’m happy that if its assented to by the President, the law will greatly improve the system with Tondeka on board,” the minister asserted.

“All the taxi factions such as UTRADA, KOTSA, KOTDA I talked to are willing to work with Tondeka. They are not ready for fights. Their only worry was that how will they be catered for, but that has been clarified now.”

At the same event, city businessman Godfrey Kirumira, the Chairman Kwagalana Group called upon Ugandans to support the new transport system since it will limit congestion and improve mobility in Kampala.

“I want to assure you that I will also use them.”

Matia Lwanga Bwanika, the Wakiso district Chairperson warned leaders against politicizing the project saying that since it’s a developmental matter “we policy makers should sit down and harmonise this transport system to ensure that it works”.

Meanwhile, Hinduja Group, renown manufacturers of the Leyland brand are expected to manage a robust cashless system which will see passengers for the first time in the history of Urban transport in Uganda use Radio Frequency Identification Cards (rfid-Cards) to swipe their way on board.

Passengers will load money on their bus card and simply swipe it to be granted access. The buses will not be handling cash. Passenger fares will range from UGX.1,200 for a single route card, UGX. 3,500 for a daily travel card, UGX.1,8000 for a weekly card and UGX. 55,000 for a monthly travel card.

The meeting was attended by all relevant stakeholders including Kampala Ministers, Works Ministry officials, KCCA, Kira Motors officials,Uganda Police, taxi operators, local governments of Wakiso, Mukono, Nansana, Makindye Ssabagabo, among others.