By Henry Mulindwa
In June 2018, part of Uganda’s first expressway Kampala-Entebbe expressway was opened to motorists.
The road commissioned by President Museveni after five years of its construction is arguably the most beautiful piece of Uganda’s growing stock of infrastructure.
Constructed by China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), the 51km expressway connects Entebbe International Airport to the Kampala northern bypass at Busega. It also connects to Munyonyo through Kajjansi. Part of its features are the four interchanges, bridges, including the Nambirigwa which is so far the longest bridge in East Africa.
However, since its opening to the public, numerous accidents have occurred on this road, with the latest involving the Entebbe Municipality Mayor Vincent Kayanja.
The accident, according to Mr Kayanja, occurred after a tyre burst, which resulted into the vehicle overturning more than three times towards Kajjansi-junction along the expressway.
According to the police, the accident was caused by reckless driving and overloading which caused tyre burst.
“From our investigations, the cause of this accident was over speeding,” police deputy spokesperson Patrick Onyango said.
During a media tour of the facility, Mr Patrick Ssenteza, an engineer at China Communications Construction Company, the company in charge of constructing this road, revealed that over speeding and reckless driving contributes to many accidents on this road.
Despite being a road for speedy cars, Mr Ssenteza says there are some sections where motorists are required to reduce on the speed but they ignore them.
“The increased cases of accidents on this road are attributed to the failure by motorists to read and respect the signposts and road markings. The road users should know that the road is well marked with all the necessary signages, so any driver should follow the road signs because they are very clear. Anybody following them properly will not have any problem in using the expressway,” he said.
Many drivers do not follow the rules governing the use of this road.
“They don’t read signposts and many accidents have been caused because of people not following the signposts and road markings.”
Mr Senteza said the signposts on this road are very clear as they were designed according to international standards.
But people ignore them. Most road signs are placed at a distance of 2km before any road junction or any other feature, which can be a challenge to the drivers.
“While on this road, please follow the road signs because they even indicate the speed you have to drive in some sections, where you are heading and even when you want to exit, there are signs to show,” he said.
“Where the road starts from, there is a warning that pedestrians and motorcycles are not allowed but still you find them in some sections of the road. The road has four lanes and each has its own speed limit. But you find someone driving at a slow speed is in a lane for fast driving,” he added.
The way many people learn how to drive in Uganda, according to Mr Senteza, is not systematic as many ignore going to driving schools to be equipped with all the necessary driving skills.
Although the road is almost complete at 90 per cent, Mr Senteza expressed concern over the rampant vandalism and theft of road infrastructure such as metals, signposts and pipes, among others.
“Road infrastructure have been stolen by unpatriotic people. They have vandalised the chain links on the fences and that’s why you find pedestrians, animals are able to access the road yet it is very dangerous since it is a high speed road; a gateway to the airport where travellers are not supposed to be interfered in any way,” he adds.
However, in order to curb the vice, Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) with the help of the police, deployed mobile police patrols to deal with any wrong doing along the way.
There were also incidents of highway theft but due to those patrols, those incidents are no more.
Mr Xiong Pai Liong, the deputy project manager, said so far, 90 per cent of the project works have been completed. The construction company will, according to Mr Liong, handover the four carriage road to UNRA in July.
He attributed the delay of the project to compensation issues which were as a result of different family wrangles as some were not agreeing on the right persons entitled to get compensation.
Toll fee charges
After its completion, Ugandans who want to use the Kampala-Entebbe expressway will access it at a cost which is yet to be established as a way of servicing the loan.
Last month, Parliament passed the Roads Bill, which also includes the implementation of the toll fees on this road.
The bill provides for, among others, the prescription of tolls for toll roads that may be put in place by the Ministry of Works and Transport by a statutory instrument and in consultation with the Finance minister.
A toll prescribed under subsection 1 shall be a charge levied on a vehicle using a toll road for the purpose of recovering the cost of construction, operation, maintenance, and rehabilitation of the road.