Kampala Capital City Authority yesterday took a major step towards reforming public transport in the city when it ended about two decades of Utoda’s stranglehold and took over the management of commuter taxis.
KCCA officials promised that the take-over would lead to an improvement in the state of the taxi parks and the service enjoyed by commuters, financed by a monthly user-fee of Shs155,000 per taxi. “With this money we shall work on roads, the drainage system, street lights and both taxi parks,” KCCA spokesman Peter Kaujju said yesterday. “Our engineering department started work on Monday to analyse the state of the carpet [sic] in the new taxi park.”
Estimates show that Utoda was collecting over Shs1 billion from an estimated 7,000 commuter taxis but was required to remit Shs390 million to KCCA per month, often missing payments for several months.
Utoda’s departure is expected to pave the way for the introduction of buses to carry more passengers and decongest the city. The first fleet of 100 buses belonging to Pioneer Easy Bus Company recently arrived at Mombasa Port after delays.
Buses, taxis to operate together
KCCA commissioned the bus company to take over the major transport routes in Kampala and operate alongside commuter taxis most of which are privately owned by individuals in the short-term.
“Buses and taxis will all operate within the city. There is no plan whatsoever to kick out taxis although we have a long-term plan we are yet to unveil,” Mr Kaujju said.
There were tears and a sense of loss among Utoda officials led by its chairman Hajj Musa Katongole, while some commuter taxi drivers said KCCA’s decision to charge a monthly fee paid in a lump sum was worse than Utoda’s daily fee.
“This is sheer robbery because they are charging more than Utoda, in a lump sum within a very limited time span,” Mr Richard Ssemwogerere, a driver at the Mbarara stage, said yesterday. “I am sure we have just changed the name but the operation still remains the same.”
Drivers have two weeks within which to make the payment.
Mr Hassan Muyise, a driver at the Kabusu stage, said: “We are driving second-hand cars that always experience mechanical faults. What will happen if a vehicle spends over two weeks in a garage? You cannot explain this to them but to Utoda, you would not pay for the days you have not been working.”
Mr Kaujju said although plans are underway to teach drivers about the new system, the lump sum monthly payment would remain.
As KCCA called the changes yesterday, Hajj Katongole held a meeting at his company’s office and said their disenfranchisement had left close to 800 workers including touts, drivers, conductors, stage supervisors and guides jobless.
“We employ very many people, the ones gathered here are like three quarters of the total number of employees,” Mr Katongole said, with tears streaming down his face.
However, Mr Kaujju said: “Utoda employs mainly drivers and conductors who shall still stay in business even as we take over control.”