Pioneer Easy Bus Company Limited (PEBL) is set to hit the streets of Kampala on Saturday this week. The revival of the financially struggling bus company has caused anxiety amongst taxi operators but excitement among passengers.
The buses had been grounded at Namboole Stadium since 2013 over tax arrears totaling up to Shs8 Billion owed to the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA).
The debt accumulated as a result of import and excise duty incurred from the importation of the 100 buses. Early this year, URA cleared the bus company after reaching an agreement on how to settle the debt it owes to the tax body.
Speaking to the Eagle, Mr Ben Nienaber, the Operations Executive of LARIMAR group, a South African company working with PEBL to offer advice, the bus company formalized a mutual agreement with Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) which has seen them bounce back.
“KCCA agreed to reconstruct the shades and bus stops most of which were destroyed,” Nienaber said. Nienaber also noted that there will be 20 buses for each route.
According to the head of Business Operations, PEBL, Abubakerer Ochaki, the company will begin operations on two routes; between Bweyogerere and Kampala City Centre and Suburbs, and between Luzira and Kampala City Centre and Suburbs between 4:30am and 10pm every day.
The tickets will cost Shs1500 for off-peak hours and Shs1000 for peak hours. Tickets will be made available through selected ticket outlets or the PEBL.
Taxi operators and passengers react
Muhamud Kasirye, a taxi operator along Sir Apollo Kaggwa road is worried about where they will get customers now with the return of the buses.
He says, “We had got used to managing business without them and now that they are back, we are going to find it hard to cope with the situation. They should have informed us earlier so that we organize. Where are all the taxis on the streets going to get customers?”
Wako, an operator from the Kasubi stage says, “We proved that we can handle without them. We are going to lose customers. It is now clear KCCA and government do not care about us. We should go back to our villages and leave the city for the rich.”
However, though passengers are excited, they are not sure if the buses will reach their various destinations.
Sylvia Nabankema, a trader in Kikubo says, “I am happy the buses are back. I do not know whether they will reach our side. We are going to be relieved because the taxis have been over charging us.”
Henry Sseguya is concerned about the congestion in the buses despite their affordability. “Even if they are a bit cheaper, some of us find it hard boarding them because of too much congestion. Have they solved that problem this time?”