KAMPALA – Transport fares to all upcountry destinations have increased as the festive season draws close. In most of the bus terminals and taxi parks visited by our reporter, the transport fares have almost doubled to what was being charged prior to the festive season.
On the western route, companies such as Global Coaches are currently charging between Shillings 50,000 to 700000 Shillings to Mbarara up from Shillings 40,000. Travellers to the districts of Greater Masaka must part with Shillings 40,000 up from Shillings 25000.
Those heading to Fort portal and Bundibugyo have to fork out Shillings 65,000 shillings up from Shillings 35,000 shillings and those to the border district of Kasese are now parting with Shillings 80,000 from Shillings 65,000 previously. Similarly, those going to West Nile districts like Arua are paying Shillings 80,000 from Shillings between Shillings 55,000 and 60,000.
The journey to Hoima and Masindi currently costs Shillings 50,000 while Gulu costs between Shillings 85,000 and 100,000. The journey to Mbale has increased by about Shillings 5,000 and now costs Shillings 40,000 from Shillings 35,000 in buses. However, YY Coaches and Courier Services have maintained the fares at Shillings 35,000 just like the case has been in previous years.
Travellers with luggage pay an extra fee based on the size. Julius Baseke, a booking clerk at Pokopoko Bus Company, which plies the Kasese route, defends the hiked transport fares unlike many years there are few travellers without return travellers yet they are already operating on half capacity.
Baseke also argues that many people who travel for Christmas either travelled earlier with the partial lifting of the lockdown and a few others have been going in the past few weeks fearing that government might impose another lockdown.
Vigario Okumu, the General Manager Kakise Coaches notes that in previous years the bus park could be full of travellers who at times could even fight to get a bus ticket but it can take them two hours now to load a single bus with 33 passengers. Okumu notes that unless the government allows them to load at least 50 passengers nothing might change soon.
The hiked transport fares have taken a huge toll on passengers. Some of the travellers are stuck in the park and are not about to cancel their trip. Our reporter found Annet Tushabe with her two children and three other adults in Bakuli bus terminal ready to travel to Mbarara.
However, their plans were cut short when they were asked to pay 300,000 Shillings. “300,000 Shillings is a lot of money. I have called my husband to send me more money but he has refused,” Tushabe who looked puzzled told our reporter as she ordered her older son to look for Boda-bodas so that they return home.
Julius Wako, a passenger found in Namayiba Park Terminal notes that he, his siblings and their families had already observed that the fares would increase and decided that he will be the only person to travel upcountry to help their old parents celebrate Christmas.
Despite the rush, bus and taxi operators are observing the standard operating procedures nearly to the dot. Our reporters saw the operators taking particulars and the temperature of each passenger boarding ensuring that they have face masks.