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Bus owners, drivers want curfew time lifted

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Bus owners and drivers have asked government to lift curfew times for buses and also allow buses ply border districts through a standard operating procedure.

The bus drivers and owners were today appearing before the National Economy of Parliament which is scrutinizing the effect of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on businesses.

Besides the lockdown and non-movement of private and public cars put in place in to stop the spread of COVID-19 by President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, a curfew still runs from 7 pm to 6.30 am. But the bus drivers and owners say the current curfew times will become a problem in their operations.

According to the chairperson of the bus drivers and owners Nathan Byanyima, operating without reaching the border districts will also affect in-country operations since most of the buses ply from the borders or get the travellers from the border areas of Kisoro, Kitgum, Arua, Bwera, Hoima and Tororo among others.

He says almost half of their income will be interfered with without reaching border districts. Byanyima says they are now seeking engagement with Ministry of Works and the Ministry of Health to see how they can work without posing a threat.

Umaru Ddungu, an official from Swift Safaris who represented buses from the Western region proposes that curfew times should be lifted as bus companies make money by running on a 24-hour service. He says it will be impossible to operate a bus service which is limited by time. He reasoned that 80 percent of bus operations are in night.

The bus drivers say that the bus sector which employs up to 12,000 people have been hardly hit by the lockdown saying they have been meeting operational costs like rent, interest for loans they acquired to buy buses, pending payments to suppliers of tyres and fuel and spare parts, and they continue to pay taxes and other fees.

Byanyima says they are now stranded as bus companies and wondering what they should do or if governemnt will help them.

In their proposals to the government to revive the buses, they want a waiver of interest in bank loans, a capitalization fund for bus drivers, suspension of payment of all government levies among others. The bus companies have also agreed to transport only half the number of people they usually take and charge an extra 15,000 and 20,000 Shillings depending on the distances.

Syda Bbumba, the committee chairperson says they will examine the presentation of the bus owners, and make recommendations to Parliament. Public transport is expected to resume on June 4, when the government provide masks to all Ugandans.



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