Transport Fares Go Up as Floods Cut Off Awoja Bridge

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In short
The state minister for works and transport has instructed Engineers to speed up with the work on Awoja bridge on Soroti -Mbale high way

Motorists from Soroti via Kumi-Mbale road have been forced to divert to Serere after floods damaged Awoja bridge, 16km outside Soroti town.
The Awoja bridge on the Soroti –Mbale road was closed on Sunday following heavy rains and floods. All traffic was diverted to use old Mbale road that passes through Serere, Ngora and connects to Kumi district.
 The minister of state for works and Transport John Byabagambi, who was inspecting the road on Wednesday, instructed engineers to re-open Soroti –Mbale highway immediately.

Due to potholes on old Mbale road motorists have got stuck several times, sometimes for more than five hours, before the grader pulls them out.  

Steven Sikuku, the Soroti station Engineer for Uganda National Road Authority (UNRA), says a grader had been deployed to tow the vehicles which get struck on Old Mbale road.

Sikuku notes that engineers are installing culverts on the damaged sections of Awoja Bridge so that normal traffic can resume by end of day on Thursday.  

All the drivers operating along old Mbale road have hiked transport fares, with passengers paying 15,000 from Soroti to Mbale up from 10,000 shillings. Travelers from Soroti to Kampala are now paying 27,000 up from 25,000 shillings. Using a motorcycle from Mukura to Soroti town via Awoja bridge now costs 16,000 shillings.

On Thursday morning, a culvert on the Soroti –Serere road gave way due to the unusually heavy traffic. Some buses had to travel from Soroti to Kampala via Lira and transport fares shot up to 40,000 shillings.

Anthony Wamburu, an engineer for GIBB Africa Limited, the consultants on Tororo –Mbale- Soroti road works, notes that they are doing emergency work on Awoja bridge to allow vehicles pass.

Wamburu says their work is basically to supervise the contractors, Dott Services, on behalf of UNRA.

In 2011, government through UNRA awarded a 90 billion shillings project to Dott Services to rehabilitate and widen the 140 kilometre Soroti-Mbale-Tororo road. However, over a year later, there is hardly any substantial progress on the road construction.

Instead, the condition of the road has continued to deteriorate with numerous potholes, depressions, deep edge breaks and eroded shoulders affecting traffic movements and resulting in high vehicle operating costs, increased travel time and high accident cases besides subjecting the travelers to an uncomfortable experience while using the road.

Previously, a journey between Soroti and Mbale used to last just over an hour but now the same distance requires at least three hours, more than double the time it used to take as drivers are forced to slow down and negotiate with the poor state of the road.


About the author

Salume Among
Salume Among is the Mbale URN bureau chief. Among has been a URN staff member since 2012.

Among started her career in 2000 as a freelance writer for Etop newspaper before starting to write for its mother paper, The New Vision. She also wrote for the Vision Group's XFM radio station from 2008 until she left to join URN.

Among has a keen interest in local politics having been a youth representative in the Soroti variously between 1996 and 2010. Among also regularly reports on health, education, the environment and sports.