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Friday, June 2, 2023

Transport costs tripled along Masaka road following a traffic detour due to the Katonga floods

Yesterday, travelers on the major Kampala-Masaka Highway reported that public commuter taxis operating along the route had increased transportation costs as a result of rising water levels at the River Katonga Bridge diverting traffic.

In a joint statement with the traffic police, the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) reported yesterday that transportation had been halted when flash floods covered a part of the road of about 200 meters in the Mpigi District and drowned the bridge.

The outcome was that the police ordered all drivers using the highway from either the Masaka side or Kampala to take the Mpigi-Kanoni- Sembabule-Villa Maria-Masaka Road, lengthening the trip and increasing fuel costs.

According to Mr. Bosco Bukenya, the chairperson of the Masaka Taxi Drivers and Conductors Association, “We had no choice but to raise the fares, but when water subsides at Katonga Bridge we will without a doubt revert to the old fares.”

Commuter cab fares from Masaka to Kampala were increased from Sh15,000 to between Sh25,000 and Sh30,000. The Kampala-Mbarara trip, which had previously cost Sh25,000, now charges between Sh35,000 and Sh40,000.

We pray that God intervenes and delivers us from this difficult circumstance because we are already facing many difficulties, the taxi driver continued. “I ask my fellow taxi drivers not to risk it and use the flooded road because the water has a lot of pressure,” he advised.

Some commuter cab drivers in Masaka City did not operate yesterday as a result of many customers deferring their trips and refusing to pay the surcharge.

Mr. David Kizuula, a commuter taxi driver on the Mbarara-Masaka-Kampala route, claimed that the alternative route would have required him to purchase fuel worth Shs250,000 instead of the Shs180,000 he was spending for the single journey.

Despite a minor increase in the fares, he stated, “It is beyond our own control and just pray that it doesn’t take long because we may start operating at a loss.”

The manager of Global Coaches Limited, Mr. Antony Kihembo, asserted that the current circumstance will not compel them to hike the fares.

“This [the floods] came suddenly; we had reduced our transportation fares from Shs30,000 to Shs20,000 as an offer to our customers,” he remarked.

The same-route operator Tausi Bus Company had up until last night kept the cost of travel from Kampala to Mbarara at Shs20,000.

The diversion will continue until the water levels have suitably decreased, according to Unra spokesperson Mr. Allan Ssempeebwa.

“We urge road users to follow our earlier instructions in the hopes that the water levels will drop over time and normal traffic operations will resume. To monitor the situation, nevertheless, our technical experts are on the ground, he added.

After torrential downpours on Wednesday night in Mpigi and the surrounding districts of Gomba, Kalungu, and Sembabule, where the river connects from, the River Katonga burst its banks.

A portion of the property near the bridge where the Uganda People’s Defence Forces intend to build a multibillion-dollar army museum was also reclaimed by the swiftly moving flood waters.

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