KCCA Explains Erratic Operation of Traffic Lights

KCCA has attributed the ongoing disruption in the operations of traffic lights, along some of the streets in Kampala, to the inconsistency in electricity supply to some of these points, while for other it is because of technical maintenance issues.    

Since the nationwide shutdown on 30th November 2022, several traffic lights in Kampala have not resumed normal operations where some are on and off, whereas others are completely off.

A mini survey by URN found  that lights at John Babiiha Avenue, Ntinda Stretcher road, and Kasubi junction are completely off, while those at Jinja Road, Wandegeya, Kabuusu, and Nakulabye, Bakuli, among others are on and off, and this condition has been on for more than a week.   

In an interview, Jacob Byamukama, the director of engineering at the Kampala capital authority says that the lights are disrupted by power outage whenever it occurs. He adds that all these light entirely depends on hydropower for their functioning.

Byamukama says that in some instances, the lights might remain functioning when the power supply is off, because of the power which would be stored in the batteries. These batteries when charged can power the lights for between 8 to 16 hours.”

According to Byamukama, some lights like those on John Babiiha Av, and in Makindye are special cases. John Babiiha’s are being handled under administrative arrangement between KCCA and UMEME, but it is being handled, and very soon they will resume operation. Those at Makindye, are off because of maintenance issues, also being handled.  

To him, the one at Old Kira road at Bukoto above the white flats is disrupted by power fluctuation on the power line to which it is connected.  

“We are looking at having plans A, B, C, and D when UMEME is on we use it for the signals, and to charge the batteries, that is from AC to DC to be used when it is off. We still also have the plan C for the generator, and in case of lacking fuel we are looking at clean energy, and this is having solar to charge the batteries and make sure that they are functioning” Byamukama says.

He adds that the traffic light controllers in the city are very sensitive to power fluctuations and outages, and that is why they are thinking of alternatives to this challenge. 

When power distributor UMEME was contacted to comment on this situation, the spokesperson promised to get back to us after consulting the technical team but had not gotten back by press time.    

The motorists on these different routes are also affected by this condition which is a destruction to their operations, and also exposes them to accidents that put their lives at risk.    

Peter Kigunddu, a taxi driver plying Kampala City Center, Kawempe route says the situation at the Wandegeya traffic lights leads to a lot of traffic jam which would otherwise be avoided, adding that for those who are in the transport business traffic jam is the worst.

Majid Muweega, who drives to Bweyogerere, says that under this situation their lives are in danger and at risk of getting into an accident at any moment.

Steven Mugerwa, who drives along Kabuusu road, says that along his route, the traffic police have helped but in instances when they are away, problems arise.

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