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Kalita abandons service along Northern Bypass route

Minister Katumba Wamala Takes a Ride on the Northern Bypass Route Bus. URN_Photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Kalita Bus Company abruptly abandoned its commuter passenger operations along the Northern bypass hardly a year after.

The company, which was using electric buses built by Kiira Motors Corporation started operations along the route around late August and early September last year.

There was excitement among passengers plying the 21-kilometer Bweyogerere to Busega as the Works and Transport Minister, General Edward Katumba Wamala launched the commuter service.

The route has over the years been dominated by old taxis which normally load four passengers per seat. So to passengers like Jessica Apio, the electric bus with a spacious interior was seen as a great relief.

But URN has confirmed that the operations by Kalita were either suspended or closed without notice or explanation to the passengers.

On Friday morning, a URN journalist deployed to one of the bus stages at Kalerwe found Jessica Apio at the stages being mocked by taxi touts who from day one viewed the electric bus as a major competitor because of its cheaper price.

“I waited for the bus, but it was nowhere to be seen. Later, I was informed that it is no longer operating on this route,” Apiyo narrated while being ridiculed by touts at the bus stage.

“Ma’am, sit and wait for the bus. If you get tired, you can take a taxi. It’s 3,000 shillings to Bweyogerere,” said one of the touts speaking in Luganda.

Taxis operating on the Busega-Bweyogerere route normally charge four thousand shillings while Kalita has been charging 2,000 shillings. If a passenger boarded the bus at a stage other than the starting point of the route, they would only be charged one thousand shillings.

Boaz Tumuhimbise, another regular traveler, the bus provided a more convenient and cost-friendly option. He revealed that taxi touts along the route had unfortunately turned into gangs and thieves posing a higher risk to passengers.

Tumuhimbise said he and other passengers willingly waited at the bus stops until the busses arrived because they were secure and safer.

Mike Sseguya, a passenger who was getting used to the buses said apart from the safety they came with additional services like Wi-Fi. Sseguya expressed hope that the bus company would resume its operations.

According to Sseguya, commuter taxis operating along the route are dilapidated and sometimes cause injuries due to their poorly cushioned seats.

Last year in September, the well-known bus company that primarily operated long-distance buses Kampala Hoima-Kasese route made a strategic decision to change their focus and start providing services on the Bweyogerere-Busega route.

In a hyped move, Kalita Bus Company deployed Uganda’s first-ever passenger electric bus named Kayoola EVs.

These electric buses were manufactured locally by Kira Motors. This strategic move by Kalita was seen as a proactive response to the then-increasing fuel prices and the growing expenses of transportation fares at that time and also looping in the need for a means of mass transport in Kampala.

The arrival of these electric buses on the route was met with great fanfare and a sense of anticipation. Government officials from the Ministry of Works and Transport, along with representatives from the Ministry of Science and Technology, wholeheartedly supported and endorsed this initiative.

During the bus launch, Gen Katumba Wamala said they were sampling possibility of mass transportation with the deployment of two Kayoola EVs operating along the Kampala northern bypass, while the Tondeka Buses were to ply the City Centre – Nakawa – Ntinda – Wandegeya route.

Godfrey Kasaijja, a manager responsible for the route at Kaliita Bus company said they encountered some challenges that were yet to be resolved. He did not reveal the challenges.

Charles Baguma, the general manager of the Kalita Bus Company declined to respond and explain what was happening.

Sylvester Mayanja, a taxi driver on the route, expressed his happiness at the departure of the bus company. He said it had disrupted their business along the route. Mayanja said that had the bus company increased the number of its fleet, it would drive them out of business.

Just another big taxi

Initially, Kayoola set high standards for bus operations, including designated stages, scheduled departure and arrival times. However, as time passed, the bus company deviated from these practices operating just as another “big taxi” on the northern bypass.

Some customers had complained that there was no fixed schedule for departing stages, and the bus would wait until it was full before departure.

Similar to taxis, the bus disregarded the designated stopovers and would stop anywhere to pick up passengers, sometimes even hooting to attract potential passengers.

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URN

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