Monday July 14 2014

City train service is welcome initiative

Joint plans by the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) and the Rift Valley Railways (RVR) to re-introduce commuter service in December should be carried through. Having this active railway network is great for the city in many ways. Foremost, this first step is well-timed and will go a long way in easing traffic congestion in Kampala.

Should this project work as planned by RVR and KCCA, nearly 10,000 passengers would be served on schedule, both morning and evening, daily by the Namanve-Kampala link. The commuter service should, therefore, offer an efficient alternative to road transport by boda boda and taxis and move faster more volumes of passengers between the Namanve-Kyengera lines by December. And more on Port Bell- Kampala city centre line too, later on.

This is a great opportunity for commuters and should uniformly bring down the current steep boda boda and taxi fares. Moreover, the railway project should insure Kampala city residents against risks of pollution as rail transport networks, world over, are reputed as environmentally clean. RVR and KCCA should ensure the passenger coaches at Nalukulongo are user-friendly and in tiptop condition. Kampala city dwellers should settle for only the best since minister Frank Tumwebaze has promised to move Kampala to a first class metropolis.

The public, especially families squatting in the neighbourhood of the railway lines, should support this project to work. They should heed calls by RVR and KCCA to vacate as has been severally requested to allow work to commence. But RVR and KCCA should not harass but raise awareness; create a broad buy-in and ownership among the affected stakeholders, especially the squatters. This evacuation should be civil without any of the fights that have gone with several of KCCA evacuations.

KCCA should not render this commuter project a castle in the air. Otherwise, city dwellers will treat the planned flyovers, and cable cars as pipe dreams, even when city executive director Jennifer Musisi assures us to the contrary.

This move is great to kick-start the five-year turnaround process to patch up Uganda’s existing rail network that has remained largely non-functional since the 1980s. Currently, only a short stretch of Uganda’s 366-kilometre rail network is actively used for freight services between Kampala and Tororo-Malaba-Nairobi, Kenya. The links to northern and western Uganda are largely broken and have frustrated haulage of commercial and export goods. Therefore, RVR should offer that efficient alternative to road transport.

Overall, the city commuter service should be a great Christmas and New Year’s gift for Kampala residents.
Kampala needs a clean, efficient transport system.