Uganda Railways Corporation resumes passenger train services :: Uganda Radionetwork

Stephen Wakasenza, the URC’s commercial director, said they have been holding trial sessions since Wednesday to ensure coaches’ readiness to resume operations and try effective ways to ensure compliance. SOPs, including physical distancing.

Uganda Railway Cooperation -URC has resumed passenger train services after the closure due to the June 2021 nationwide lockdown instituted by President Yoweri Museveni to contain the second wave of COVID-19. While announcing the confinement, Museveni suspended private and public transport.

On July 30, 2021, Museveni lifted the lockdown allowing the resumption of private and public transport in strict compliance with standard operating procedures-SOPs. Today, URC has resumed passenger train services on the Namanve-Kampala and Kampala-Port Bell routes, operating five trips a day. The first trip starts from Namanve at 7:00am and arrives in Kampala at 7:45am while the second coach leaves Kampala at 8:00am for Portbell and arrives in 25 minutes.

In the evening, another bus leaves Kampala at 4:30 p.m. and reaches Namanve at 5:15 p.m. Another leaves Kampala at 4:50 p.m. and reaches Portbell at 5:20 p.m. At 5:20 p.m., another bus leaves Namanve for Kampala and arrives at 5:50 p.m. During normal operations, the coaches make 10 trips, four between Namanve and Kampala and six between Kampala and Portbell.

Stephen Wakasenza, the URC’s commercial director, said they have been holding trial sessions since Wednesday to ensure coaches’ readiness to resume operations and try effective ways to ensure compliance. SOPs, including physical distancing.

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Last year, after the March lockdown, the URC delayed the resumption of passenger train services for more than four months over fears that passengers would not adhere to SOPs, making it a source of COVID transmission -19. Charles Kateeba, the managing director of URC, later told Uganda Radio Network that they had done an assessment and found that it was still very risky to open up.

Wakasenza says it has more than halved the number of passengers to ensure social distancing. Before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 4,000 people used coaches to travel. There are 5 coaches including 4 on the Kampala Namanve road and one on the Kampala Portbell road.

Each coach has a seated and standing capacity of 120-150 passengers but is currently permitted to take a maximum of 65 passengers. The interior of the train has been marked with numbers to guide passengers on where to sit or stand while respecting social distancing.

The number of seated passengers is indicated on the wall while for standing passengers, the numbers are on the floor. Wakasenza says they have raised fares from 1,000 shillings to 3,000 shillings to fill the gap left by reducing the number of passengers. Passengers pay cash at the transport desk at the station and receive a receipt which they can present to a coach inspector when on the train.

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Wakasenza says the company will soon receive four new locomotives and repair 10 more cars to increase its fleet. There is also a proposal to expand rail services in the Greater Kampala Metropolitan Area. It is proposed to develop the Kampala Railway project along the 53 km Mukono-Kampala-Bujuuko plus an 8 km branch to Port Bell.

Jose P. Rogers