THE Rt. Hon. Speaker Parliament of Uganda Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga has pledged to give TONDEKA buses all support they want from Parliament, to make sure 980 buses arrive in Kampala as soon as possible to curb the ‘annoying traffic jam’ in the Capital City.
Kadaga made this commitment on Thursday during a meeting she convened to be briefed by Tondeka Metro bosses led by Board chairman Dr. Peter Kimbowa about the Ashok buses which are set to replace matatus .
Other TONDEKA official present were, Dorothy Kabugo, the company Secretary, Mr. Shibir Karia, Mustafa Mayambala (Chairman UTRADA), Amanda Ngabirano who is a Board member an expert in urban planning and environment, and Gad Mugisha who is the Chairman Taxi owners also a board member, Sarah Musumba who is the Cordinator at secretariat of Tondeka and Morris Mukiibi communication and information executive.
Kadaga said, “I support the initiative of bringing buses in Kampala. When I was young, we were leaving in Naguru and I used to come to school at Shimon by a Kabandole bus.”
Causing laughter in the meeting, Speaker Kadaga said, “I would stand around Esso corner about 20 meters where our stage would be. The days when I did not eat the money, I would go by bus, the days I ate the money, would just walk back home.”
Kimbowa told Kadaga, “We are business people, we dont deal in conspiracies hiding this and that. We have had several constructive meetings with the Ministry of Works, we have had meetings with UDC which actually are the main organisation in this, we have had several meetings with KCCA and others.”
“We do believe that the ultimate impact of this project is going to be that we increase safety, reduce on the traffic jam, increase affordability, the fares are going to be low, one has to pay a monthly ticket of 55000 like London Metro, 18000 for a week and 3500 for a day and if you are going one way, is 1200.” He told Madam Speaker
“This is a very good idea, because the congestion is so sickening. I have just been with the president and was talking with him about Jinja road jam and said, we can not continue with this.” Said Kadaga.
She said, she is very much familiar with Ashok – Leylands TONDEKA bus suppliers seing them in different East African Countries.
According to Mr. Kimbowa, Ashok Leyland is number one bus manufracture in the World, TONDEKA are bringing best in class buses. They caters for disabled people, the old people and Children.
In the presence of journalists, the Speaker showed concern about the too much traffic of Kampala – Jinja road saying, “In the past, Jinja-Kampala was 45 minutes but now, 45minutes are between Kampala and Banda. Can you imagine? If you are going to Jinja, the journey will take you three to four hours. Its just a nightmare. It’s a very good idea and I want to commend you because I know it’s annoying travelling in this town, everybody is losing.”
In their petition to the Speaker of Parliament about Tondeka buses, a section of Taxi operators under Kampala Operational Taxi Stages Association (KOTSA) they said, “We implore you as an institution of Parliament to ensure the taxi drivers and conductors are part of this project for mis-inception to final launch of the buses less to be kicked out of the project.”
“We have been here when there was no body, helped this country to do transport. So if we are kicked out of the transport it will not be fair, we are so many and we have families.” KOTSA petition reads.
However, before the Speaker ruled on this petition, he asked TONDEKA Metro how incorporate this group of taxi operators.
“And tell me, how are you going to guarantee the transition from taxis to buses because that is the worry of these KOTSA people?” Asked Kadaga.
DR. KIMBOWA EXPLAINS
In his response, Dr. Peter Kimbowa, chairman Tondeka Metro said, “Madam Speaker, we are actually supposed to have KOTSA on our board but they still have leadership issues. When they agree on their leadership, we will definately welcome them. Their place is still vacant. “
“We have got a very phased program of managing a smooth transition. One, we held a multi stakeholder technical meeting which involved Wakiso, Entebbe, Mukono, Ministry of Transport, we have involved police, ISO. This technical consultative meeting took place in December.” He said.
“We held another one in Kansanga, again bringing together all stakeholders for consultations and engagement and finding out from them how they want this phase to be and to build some kind of harmonisation and concensus.” Explained a soft speaking Kimbowa adding, “We got very good ideas which we are implementing now, the most important thing madam Speaker, is that they are all represented on the board. And the three groups are actually shareholders of Tondeka Metro including KOTSA group owning about 4% shares.”
Kimbowa talked about the recruitment of the bus drivers saying all drivers of taxis are going to be do subjected to driving tests and those who will pass, automatically be included.
“The process has started. We have asked all taxi drivers to submit their papers, there is going to be a screening exercise in Kololo and we will proceed with the process in conjuction with the Ministry of Works who are have the best driving tests mechanism.” Said Dr. Kimbowa.
Tondeka assured the Speaker that they are going to have continuous communication with all the various stake holders.
“We have meetings scheduled between now and in June to ensure that we keep meeting these people and keep sharing information and all crucial milestones we are achieving before the buses arrive. So that when they arrive, we are ready to move.” Said Kimbowa.
DETAILS KIMBOWA GAVE KADAGA ABOUT TONDEKA BUS PROJECT
Briefly who are we and what do we do, Madam Speaker, I have come with some literature which I will be leaving behind but I will briefly say, that we are locally a constituted company.
It’s a local company, Ugandan company Tondeka and it’s owned by Ugandans. So it has been constituted as a local company to address some of the problems that we have in Kampala.
We have a very inefficient and almost difficult transport system and among challenges we all face is the traffic jam, a lot of congestion, pollution, Kampala is the 2nd most polluted city in the world and there is lack of safety and affordablity of transport within.
So our intervention is to bring in 980 buses to start with and we are in partnership with Kiira Motors that the subsequent deliveries of the buses will be assembled here by Kiira Motors. So this all project of Tondeka is conceived with the understanding that we are going to work togather with Kiira Motors. So, we are going to bring the first batch of the buses, the rest of the buses 200 per month, will be worked on by Kiira Motors which is 100% owned by government.
There will be a self financing mechanism in this project, there will be no exchange of cash, it will be cashless. The fees are going to be a lot more affordable. So there is going to be a lot of convenience, safety and comfort for the passengers.
We have constructively engaged all key stakeholders both in government, development partners and civil society to get their opinions on making this project work.
In terms of revenue, we are going to pay taxes and will increase the tax base. Uganda has been losing USD 800M in traffic jam.
I understand there are other social issues around traffic jam which has been brought to the attention of Parliament but are more concerned about the loss in terms of money. Then there is employment. There is going to be almost 20000 of jobs created directly and 40000 jobs created indirectly within Tondeka because we are not only talking about the buses but the entire eco-system of buses which includes other things like the terminals, which is like starting new cities outside Kampala.
Because that is where people come to pick buses, go shopping, park their vehicles, enter buses and come to town.
The tax owners are shareholders in this company, the tax operators are also shareholders. The president made this very clear that from the word go, we have to be with the taxi owners and operators at the centre of this whole project.
The other shareholders are companies like IV consultants, Transport management consultants and other local investors and Entrepreneurs.
As this project was conceived, the commitment that we made and we still do, is that after three years, there will be an IPO that will open broad ownership of this projects to Ugandans.
Right now our core shareholders are taxi owners and operators and the rest of the entrepreneurs.
ASHOK-LEYLAND OFFICIAL ASURES PARLIAMENT
Mr. Shibir Karia said, “Ashok Leyland are offering sufficient solution of transport system and not only supplying the buses but also offering training of drivers, mechanic technical training, Cashless digital solutions including the financing solution which is forwarded by EXIM Bank of India, it’s finance credit to the government of Uganda.
“It’s a self financing project. So all the revenues, the first priority will be paying off the loan and clear taxes.”He said.
The Indian man explained that, “Ashok Leyland is number one bus company in India, we have been supplying buses in Africa now for 25 years, we first launched in Lagos in 2008 and before we went there, the situation in their capital was worse than here in Kampala. Today, almost 5000 buses operates in Lagos. Other cities like Abuja, Accra to Ghana, Ivory Coast, Abidjan, Senegal, Kinshasa and many other African countries.”
ANY RIFT BETWEEN TONDEKA & KIRA MOTORS?
Dr. Kimbowa told Kadaga that, “We saw the MP on the floor yesterday talking very eloquently about the need to protect local jobs, the need to support local industries and so on”
“Well he has his opinion but as far as this project is, it is conceived with full understanding that apart from the 980 buses, all the subsequent buses are going to go through Kira Motors which is government owned. It is set up and has got infrastructure, got an assembling plant and its growing it and Ashok Leyland has inspected and offered to support it all the way.” Said TONDEKA Board Chairman.
He revealed that, “With the other initiative of the person in Namanve, their capacity we don’t know, but as far as concerned, for us we are working with Kira Motors.”
“And another clarification madam speaker, we have opened the door. Any Ugandan who has buses and would want them integrated in Tondeka, is free to do so.” Kimbowa explained, adding, “The people in Namanve are actually free bring those buses for as long as they match our standards, the specifications, we have no problem.
So the doors are open, we believe in inclusive growth of the country. Any one who has anything can come and fit in, we are not excluding any one at all.”
About the taxi owners having loans, Kimbowa daid, “Madam speaker, some of the taxi drivers and owners have debts. Some have just bought the taxis. We have actually the product already we have designed with financial institutions to enable the current drivers of taxis to actually offset those debts and be reintegrated especially those who are going to be drivers and conductors the process of recruitment has started now”.
DOROTHY KABUGO GIVE MORE EXPLAINATION
One may wonder how the 980 buses will be brought and navigate through this jam! We are talking to the minister of Works and also to KCCA and we are going to work within the infrastructure we have today but there are a number of extention plans of the roads which is now on going.
We are encorporating bus stops and where possible, they are going to create priority lines within the Central business district and then as you move out of the city because the project is within the greater Kampala, the ministry of Works is talking to UNRA to see how best we can work on the infrastructure.
The buses are not going to have a park within the city. They will be going through and rotate and goes to its terminal like that until the end of the shift.
The greater Kampala Metropolitan area has been divided into zones which includes: Eastern, Western, Southern and North.
And at the end of this zones we have a terminal, because you can’t have it in the city.
The terminal will have a taxi park but a bigger one sitting on about 10 acres and has a place where buses load and offload passengers.
Traffic jam is caused by those who leaves their houses with three, four, five cars and all driving to the city.
So what this solution is offering, is also allowing the people who use taxis use the buses.
So that means that, instead of spending 600,00 shillings per a month on fuel, I can just buy my card at 550,00 shillings. But also to ease jam within town.
It also means that within the town here, some of those parking slots may go especially along the major routes to create priority lanes so there is an opportunity for an investor to invest into park and ride service so that by insisting on coming to town with my car, I must be charged for parking.
The terminals/bus stops have the shopping centers, the markets and in every place where a terminalis created is indeed a new town or a new city because we will have hundreds of people converging there.
This means that, just at a terminal, you can have up to 3000 people being employed. Of course there are washing bays, restaurants, etc.
We have the depots for Tondeka to park buses at the end of the day, wash them, service them and ensure that they are ready to go on the road the next day. Then the drivers’ changing rooms, all that. We don’t want any bus park within the city, there are depots along each of these routes.
There are bus stops along the road. Unless like the ordinary taxis or bus stops we have now where every after a meter there is a stop, people jump on and off, we are coming with a systematical way.
We are working with KCCA to mark them out and actually know that within such a distance, we will have a bus stop so that we don’t bring jam again.
So when you access the infrastructure, this is not an issue of bringing in buses, its an issue of reorganizing transport in the city and we are working with experts like Ms. Amanda Ngabirano and also and Engineers to plan carefully so that we don’t dump it on the people.
But as work, we are with UDC. Tondeka Metro is the operator.
KCCA on a number of times put up bids for investors to invest in buses and failed. In fact one time they got, but failed to provide the buses. Here we are, and we will manage.
Public transport internationally is a public good. Essentially, government is supposed to invest in it.
But when an investor coming in to work with government to make sure it is streamlined, then it is a plus.
We have identified the sites of terminals and its private investors that are investing in these terminals.
We are planning five terminals. On Jinja road we have one in Mukono – Wantoni stage onwards, we have already identified the site. Along Jinja road, we have up to three park and ride services, where people can drive and park their cars and then jump on the buses.
Other terminals are in Matugga on Bombo road, Buloba on Mityana road, a terminal in Nsangi on Masaka road. Entebbe road, there is no terminal there but a park and ride service at Kitubulu. The same way to Gaba road and Luzira.
We have a major workshop for the buses because they will need to be serviced.
AMANDA ON CONGESTION
The level of intensity of the activities in the city is quite high.
This is easy because the level of service provision was quite focused on Kampala as a capital. And therefore, this generated travelled much people to access places for schools, jobs, markets, for home and all this happens very fast that Kampala started chocking.
One of the obvious chocking is traffic and transportation. Every body is now discussing, every body is concerned even a lay person is complaining about a traffic congestion.
Kampala isn’t the richest city that we have so many cars. The only problem, we don’t have an alternative means of transportation, we don’t have an efficient public transport system.
The city of our status, the population and how it is growing, there is nowhere in the world that the city will operate on private car system dominating the transportation system.
And the way we are developing as a country, we are getting more people educated, more people who want to live comfortably. So many will choose getting personal cars. This is going to be unsustainable, it will choke the environment which is very bad for the city and therefore, make people spend more money in traffic jam.
Transportation is going to eat up our people income, they wont be in position to save and invest for their economic growth. This brings me to how the transportation system in our city has encouraged private car ownership.
The land use planning system has not been well integrated in traffic and transportation such that, you find someone staying 25kms away from where they work and why, because they know can buy a car, there is no public transport system.
There is also a problem of first and the last mile. If I work at the parliament of Uganda, and the taxi or bus leaves me in Lugogo, how would I get here, probably that is my last mile?
So the first mile from my home, through the dark streets to the stage has encouraged people to own cars, because if you are to leave home at 4:30 am to 5:00am, you cant walk to the stage so you are going to start planning for owning a private car.
The city must think about a multi-model transport system whereby, you focus on carrying people not carrying cars. The system we have today, is that of carrying vehicles.
Because, per a person, the carrying capacity is two people in a private car and if it’s a higher carrying capacity vehicle, you can have the same number of private cars lets say 64 cars, being taken up by one bus. The current system, we have 64 cars occupying a space of one bus.
So I highly encourage the city and the government to think about higher capacity carrying systems.
MAYAMBALA GIVE DRIVERS & CONDUCTORS POSITION
Chairman Uganda Transport Development Development Agency (UTRADA) an association of Drivers and conductors said, the bus project isn’t new in their ears.
“When we met President in 2015, we had our issues against KCCA, local government, police and other bodies.” Said Mustafa Mayambala.
He told the Speaker, “When the president listened to us, he assured to settle our issues andhe indeed settled them. We want to thank the president.”
“But the president told us to start preparing for transition because taxis will be phased out to mass out but assured us, we will be given the first priority.” He said.
In 2019, they were informed about TONDEKA Metro in charge of preparing them for the transport transition. “True, we have also travelled to places like Kenya, Rwanda and saw, their transport has greatly changed. Jam has been affecting us in fuel and time. In our association, we will make sure protect the jobs of our people. We are happy, taxis will not totally phased out.” Said Mayambala.
Gad Mugisha, the chairman tax owners said, for them are very ready for the transition.