From Slow Down Taxis to Seamless Trains

I have witnessed the changing of seasons. From the relentless winter, filled with floating fog to beautiful spring, made up of flourishing flowers. In between, I lived a life of an academic hermit, submitting weekly essays birthed out of long nights and library layovers; I am glad that I got a break from this, just as winter passed. Now, the sun is shining again. It colors up the green lawns in the college quad, in ways I had never seen. But it is not just the seasons that are changing, so is my experience with the socio-infrastructure setups within two countries that are miles apart. This blog speaks of my adjustment to the transport system in the United Kingdom (UK). 

In late November, I had a scheduled interview. Although I was excited by this prospect, I had secondary worries. I had to travel from Oxford to Slough, London. The thought was disturbing, as I had not yet familiarized myself with the public transport system in the UK. My travel history offered no vindication, I had once missed a flight and I knew too well the cost of repetition of a similar mistake.

Unlike Uganda where public transport is majorly by taxi mini-vans (matatu) and motorcycles (boda boda); the UK public transport system is composed of mainly buses and trains. This was unchartered territory for me. Although there are public buses in Uganda, these do not operate on fixed schedules, with fixed bus stops along major streets. Further, I was not yet familiar with the places and cities in the UK. I had only recently become resident in this great country, which one of my Pan African friends occasionally describes as “The heart of the colonial empire.” Her thoughts are well founded, but not the subject of this blog. I will explore them in another blogpost.

I had to be alert. The cost of missing my stop at the station would definitely have resulted in extra expenses and a missed interview. Thus, three weeks to the interview, I started inquiring from Michael, my classmate, about which routes to take and whether I should take a bus or train. Michael was extremely kind to me. He assuaged my fears, and emphasized that the journeying was not as difficult as I thought. I even asked another friend (from my local church) who gave me similar assurances. I wanted to ensure that I used as much advice as I could get. Michael shared the screenshot of my prospective journey off google maps. In the screenshot, I saw the available trains and the expected time of departure and arrival. We decided that the Great Western Railway through Reading was the best route. He offered to take me to the Oxford Train Station and help me through the entire process.

While my train was scheduled for 11:30am, I got up as early as 6 am. I did not want to leave anything to chance. I met up with Michael at the Westgate Mall and we walked down to the station. I bought a return ticket, which was helpfully elaborate as it indicated my boarding platform. Michael showed me the entry point to my boarding platform and informed me that I would get off the train at the third stop. We then parted ways. I swiped my ticket into the machine, and was granted access to the boarding platforms. As soon as I got there, I heard the announcement for my train. It was easy to follow; I wondered why I was so worried!

I boarded the train, got a seat by the window, and pulled out a textbook from my bag. I had two essays due the following week therefore I wanted to cover up part of the reading through the journey. Within 20 minutes, I heard the call for the next stop, “The next stop is Slough.” I stood up, moved close to the exit and when the train stopped, I walked off. I made it in time for my interview. 

I was impressed. The journey was fast, safe and most importantly cheap. The equivalent of that journey in Uganda would take at least two hours.   This is what an efficient transport system looks like. There are many benefits from this; first, it allows faster trade & business. Second, it saves time, which is crucial to ensuring productivity. Third, it connects people and cities. It was an important lesson. While my country is far from attaining this standard, there have been significant investments in public infrastructure to construct roads and reinstate the railway. These are steps in the right direction, although as a country, we remain constrained by our national debt and priorities that are reflected in the percentage allocations of our budget. I am inspired by the prospects of my country but also very much aware of our limitations.

  • Claire Noce
    Posted at 03:03h, 20 April Reply

    I went through a similar experience. For two months i did not move around the city or visit near by places by public means because i had no idea how the system works. One day i was attending an event in London with a friend who kindly gave me a comprehensive tutorial. That was freedom.

  • Isaac Kiiza Tibasiima
    Posted at 03:38h, 20 April Reply


    This is a nice one. I wonder how complex Oxford is. I studied in an old city full of ring roads and till now, I've never gotten over the experience of once driving back to the same spot just because I missed my turn. That was York.

    But, the trains and trams and buses are an amazing experience. I'm sure you'll enjoy the spring and upcoming summer. Do enjoy the UK and all it has to offer before the dust and 'mu maaso awo" expressions wring your ears to deafness.

  • Unknown
    Posted at 05:30h, 20 April Reply

    This is great to note. Thank you so much for the beautiful and resourceful comparisons.

  • Unknown
    Posted at 05:45h, 20 April Reply

    Good experience worth sharing. It will take some good time for our motherland to get there but we are hopeful.

    Thanks Jo for sharing despite your tight schedule. Looking forward for more.

  • Simon Peter Kitimbo
    Posted at 07:00h, 20 April Reply

    Amazing experience! You learnt so fast from Michael… Uganda has got a long way to get to that level.

  • Rebecca Amoding
    Posted at 07:03h, 20 April Reply

    Beautiful piece. Thanks Joel for sharing.

  • Unknown
    Posted at 07:07h, 20 April Reply

    Wonderful post. It is a striking difference to our matatu congested streets in Kampala where the taxi conductor is king. I think the rail and bus system is key to resolving the long hours of traffic jam in our city.

  • ckashisha
    Posted at 07:21h, 20 April Reply

    Good read Joel! Thank you for the insights! We are indeed out there to learn from those that went ahead in order for us to make our homes better.

  • Unknown
    Posted at 10:05h, 20 April Reply

    Lovely piece. Thx Joel. Make the most of spring as it will go away soon

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 16:26h, 20 April Reply

    I can imagine. Freedom indeed. Glad you got that tutorial.

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 16:31h, 20 April Reply

    Thank you Isaac.

    I can only imagine how your experience was!

    Oxford is not as complicated, I've learnt my way around the city centre.

    I'll make an effort to make the most of the experience.

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 16:31h, 20 April Reply

    Many thanks.

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 16:33h, 20 April Reply

    Webaale Munna. Yes. But we shall get there.

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 16:34h, 20 April Reply

    Thanks Rebecca.

    You are welcome.

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 16:37h, 20 April Reply

    It is definitely one of the possible solutions to traffic jam in Kampala.

    Thank you.

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 16:38h, 20 April Reply

    Thank you , Charlotte. You are welcome.

    Learning and unlearning are always a constant.

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 18:34h, 20 April Reply

    Thank you, William. It will definitely take sometime before we get there.

    I will write as often as I can.

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 18:35h, 20 April Reply

    Many thanks. You are welcome

    I'll make the most of it.

  • Unknown
    Posted at 19:30h, 20 April Reply

    I liked the planning invested just to go on a journey. Your point of reflection on Uganda is very important coz you now know what to do diffrently

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 03:14h, 21 April Reply

    Thank you.

    I hope things can change for the better.

  • Unknown
    Posted at 12:32h, 21 April Reply

    As one who has studied only part of Highway engineering, I have only heard of such systems in theory.

    I hope for a time Uganda's transport system shall be as efficient.

  • Unknown
    Posted at 16:33h, 21 April Reply

    I've suffered hodophobia for the longest while and it can be unbecoming. But sharing your experience is very comforting.

  • Joseph
    Posted at 22:09h, 21 April Reply

    My Bro, Joel, when scholars say there are developed and developing countries, you now understand it well. The system here is organised, I wish our country had such an infrastructure. Even our road tranport is lacking. I now understand why some people come in UK want to remain because the quality of life is self evident.

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 23:25h, 21 April Reply

    I hear you. I'm glad to know it's not just me.

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 23:29h, 21 April Reply

    Thank you bro. I hear you. While there are stark differences between our societies, Uganda has its perks. We remain hopeful.

  • Unknown
    Posted at 17:20h, 22 April Reply

    Very useful piece of writing. I appreciate, this is good for developing countries to look up to.

    Well-done Joan

  • Unknown
    Posted at 18:41h, 22 April Reply

    What an experience.

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 19:25h, 22 April Reply

    Thank you Joan.

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 19:25h, 22 April Reply

    It was worthwhile.

  • Unknown
    Posted at 11:58h, 23 April Reply

    That's the way it should be. We'll get there some day.

  • Nk Japhet
    Posted at 18:28h, 23 April Reply

    Thank you for sharing your experience with the transport system in UK and taking note of the strides that Uganda is making. The old man in a hat keeps emphasizing the need for infrastructure whenever he gets a chance and reading this piece confirms that we on course to becoming a stronger economy.

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 10:11h, 24 April Reply


  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 10:13h, 24 April Reply

    You are welcome. Thanks for taking the time to read, Japhet. His mind is in the right direction in regard to infrastructure.

  • Agnes
    Posted at 19:23h, 24 April Reply

    Interesting piece-thanks for sharing! Reminds me of my Oxford days! loved the underground transportation though I found it expensive especially during rush hour (Strong pound vs Ug shilling) but underground was my solution to getting lost especially in London- whenever I lost direction, I would get back to the nearest underground to find my bearing-had no smart phone then! Well, will take a while for Uganda to get there (several reasons) but the baby steps matter – The British progressed quickly-cheap/free labour/raw materials!

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 21:05h, 28 April Reply

    You are welcome. I can only imagine how it was before the smart phones; they now offer comprehensive navigation assistance. Yes, it will take significant strides for us to match up.

  • sights and sighs
    Posted at 10:29h, 30 April Reply

    This is a good honest revelation of one's fears and apprehensions of the unknown. I am glad you were able to .ake your way through thr maze. It does get confusing sometimes. Happy to read that you are enjoying your experience of Oxford and England. Brings back lots of memories. The underground, the weather, the new friends to be made, etc. However, if you don't travel to see the best of them all – Cambridge- you have seen nothing. Mic drop.

  • Leah
    Posted at 10:32h, 30 April Reply

    Wow, I followed u through to the interview. Am glad we didn't get lost!! Some day, Uganda will get there.

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 13:51h, 30 April Reply

    Many thanks for the kind comments, although they have been watered down by the reference to Cambridge. That's thin ice! It is a wonderful experience, I hope to visit Cambridge in the summer.

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 13:51h, 30 April Reply

    Thanks , Leah.

  • Unknown
    Posted at 11:54h, 03 May Reply

    This is a good one Joel. Thanks for sharing. Can't wait to hear more about your experiences.

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 17:52h, 05 May Reply

    Thank you.

    You are welcome.

  • Nyakato Juliet Sheila
    Posted at 05:13h, 06 May Reply


  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 16:52h, 10 May Reply

    Thank you , Juliet.

  • Unknown
    Posted at 19:26h, 12 May Reply

    Wooww! What a beautiful piece, Joel. It is a great experience you are having, especially the disparities in culture and development. I am glad you are finding your life in a completely different environment.

  • Unknown
    Posted at 23:11h, 15 May Reply

    A good read. I like how you shared your candid, first-hand experiences using UK transport, as well as the key take-aways you took, which can hopefully, be applied to your home country Uganda, in the foreseeable future.

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 10:34h, 16 May Reply

    Thank you, for the kind words.

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 10:34h, 16 May Reply

    Thank you Azumah.

  • Kiira Waibi
    Posted at 20:05h, 27 May Reply

    Thanks for letting us in on your experience baaba. Such a punctual transport system would go a long way in taming some of us who like to travel in a rush.

    Well written!

  • Unknown
    Posted at 14:15h, 03 June Reply

    Hey Joel! Glad you made it in time for the interview, and you have been able to appreciate the role of an effective transport system in facilitating productivity. I hope my country Uganda can overcome its prevailing challenges like our national debt and so on, and pick a leaf from the UK. Nevertheless, if there is one thing that has impressed me about this article, it is how you kicked it off. From the changing seasons, the description of the sun, grass and your academic hibernation, to the UK's transport system! Kudos. Keep the faith! God bless.

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 15:26h, 03 June Reply

    You are welcome, Brian.

    Thank you for the kind words.

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 15:33h, 03 June Reply

    Many thanks, Chris.

    You are very kind. Thanks for the feedback.

    While our country has increasing prospects of success, we need to manage the current challenges as
    you rightly pointed out.

  • Edwin Chris
    Posted at 12:16h, 03 July Reply

    Hey, quite an experience and you have really adjusted well. Also shows how important it is to ask for information. Keep going and as for us in Uganda, we are still shouting "mumaaso awo" and driving in opposite lanes. How I crave for when we get better roads and all become disciplined road users!

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 01:35h, 23 July Reply

    Thank you bro. Yes, asking for information is important and we need better roads. However, I wonder how we can deal with indisciplined road users? It is a real challenge.

  • Karagwa Rebecca Nkwanzinungi
    Posted at 02:56h, 20 August Reply

    I like this kind of order and wish for it very much here in my country. I read in this blog that we are in the right direction,( I agree) but the Government needs to be more intentional.

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