The resumption of passenger train services in Kampala was awaited for long.
For a while, since 2012, this dream has been coming, especially following a pronouncement early this year by the Kampala Capita City Authority Executive Director Jennifer Musisi that the service would resume by March.
The announcement by Ms Musisi was itself worrying, for she was not the right person to be making the announcement in the first place.
The right man, Uganda Railways Corporation boss Charles Kateeba, has since stepped up to say the passenger train route from Kampala to Namanve will be operational starting Monday, December 7. He sounds more believable on this most welcome development.
As this newspaper has argued before, we need to immediately reinstate train services to relieve the pressure on our roads, which pushes up road maintenance costs, and also ease traffic flow during rush hours in the capital Kampala.
But, we pose the question, have the necessary preparations been made? For instance, how come works on terminalsstations at Nakawa, Namboole and Namanve are not in evidence? We have been told that on the wagons will be up to 1,000 people heading in one direction during any of the four trips in the mornings and evenings.
These are very many people by any standards. But how will they then move from, say, Namanve to continue with their journeys? We ask this because we are not aware of say a mini taxi park that has been set up in the area to cater for passengers continuing to Mukono, for instance.
There are safety considerations too. The stations are not linked to the main road in any safe way, and there are always fears of people getting waylaid on their way to or from the Namanve “station” as they look for connections to their destinations. The announcement did not address this important aspect.
Even the fare, Shs 1,500, itself seems a bit on the high side. How do you expect to lure passengers, who ordinarily pay Shs 2,000 in taxi to travel from Kampala to Mukono, to pay Shs 1,500 from Kampala to Namanve and probably pay another Shs 1,000 from there to Mukono? They will probably board the trains out of excitement and revert to the taxis once the excitement dies out. The return ticket of Shs 2,500, however, seems attractive.
In short, those concerned should ensure this episode does not pass as a rushed initiative with different objectives from ensuring smooth and efficient passenger train transport.
SOURCE: DAILY MONITOR