The Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) is introducing the use of speed boats as a means of transport across the Kazinga Channel, to pave way for the Reconstruction of its Katunguru Bridge.
The announcement comes barely a week after decks on the Bridge which connects lakes Edward and George got damaged. The Channel also connects the districts of Kasese and Rubirizi. The roads agency issued a directive on Tuesday stopping heavy trucks and buses from using the road but allowed light vehicles to cross, albeit, with caution.
A day later, a team led by the Head of Bridge Structures at UNRA Eng Lawrence Pario started assessing the extent of the damage on the bridge.
Media Relations Manager Allan Ssempebwa says the assessment has been completed and immediate remedial works have been sanctioned by UNRA Executive Director Allen Kagina. According to Ssempebwa, the works will start on Sunday and last at least six weeks.
He added that once the works start, even light vehicles will not be allowed to use the bridge. Instead, UNRA will introduce 25-seater capacity speed boats to facilitate the movement of people across the channel.
The Katunguru bridge was first constructed in 1954 and repaired in 1988. The structure is a highway bridge that is essential in the movement of cargo destined to the Democratic of Congo (DRC) from Uganda and Kenya. The bridge also facilitates the movement of people and goods from Greater Masaka, Ankole and Kigezi sub-regions, to the Rwenzori region and subsequently into the DRC.
Treasure Joseph Baluku, a taxidriver who plies the Kasese-Mbarara route says this development is a huge blow to their business.
Baluku argues that the government should have detected the challenge a little earlier before the situation reached a point where vehicles would be blocked. Baluku appealed to UNRA to expedite the process of repairing the bridge so that business returns to normalcy.
Arnold Mumbere, a hawker at Kikorongo says the stopping of heavy vehicles has already affected their sales. He told URN that bus passengers and truck drivers comprise a big percentage of their customer base for a business that cannot operate on water.