Traffic, traffic and still more traffic
Back to school and, much to our dismay, we have an enormous increase of traffic on our roads. As a consequence, since last Monday, the number of cars on the road using our main thoroughfares in the early hours of the morning has multiplied.
Dr Simon Mercieca is senior lecturer, Department of History
It is true that this government inherited a traffic problem. But it is also true that, to date, this government has failed to solve the problem despite being in office for nearly four years. The problem is that, over these last three years, traffic on our roads has continued to be on the increase.
Had this government kept a stable traffic flow, it would have achieved something. But even here, it has failed. In the meantime, the problem has become even more critical.
Clearly this government has no ‘blueprint’ about how it is going to solve our traffic problems. Despite the fact that the minister responsible for the sector went on national television and stated that he has a long, medium and short term solution, none have come to fruition. I know of genuine Labourites who have written to the Prime Minister offering their concrete proposals. One particular person, who is an experienced and level-headed person gave his views, but his advice has fallen on deaf ears. He is now suspecting that his proposals were dumped on the desk of individuals who either do not even understand what is being proposed or else, these individuals have ulterior motives to ignore his advice.
The end result is that this government is losing face. In Maltese, we say qed jaqa’ ghaccajt. Minister Mizzi and Transport Malta’s CEO are now the target of heavy criticism. I do believe that government is aware that these gentlemen are a disaster since articles began to appear against them in Malta Today.
One must concur that there was a positive initiative with the introduction of ferry transport from Cottonera to Valletta. But obviously this initiative is not going to solve the traffic problem. I live at Marsaxlokk. The traffic is now starting from the outskirts of Marsaxlokk and continues up to Santa Lucia. It takes between half-and-hour to three-quarters-of-an-hour to reach the roundabout of Santa Lucia from Marsaxlokk. As each year goes by, the traffic situation in the South is getting from bad to worse.
To add insult to injury we drivers have to contend with the state of the roads. Quite a number of roads are in a very bad state. Unfortunately, Malta lacks committed Citizens’ Associations that have the courage to sue Transport Malta and/or local councils for the damage that these roads are inflicting on our cars.
Furthermore, there are serious doubts whether the new Kappara Junction will truly solve the traffic problem. While the Coast Road was being built, part of this street was closed to traffic. Yet though the traffic was less dense, it was still a nightmare for San Gwann’s residents.
The real problem seems to lie in the number of cars that are being introduced daily in Malta. Our streets were never planned to receive such a massive amount of vehicles. If the information I have is correct, thirty-eight new cars are added to our streets each day. Is this a symptom of economic advancement? I have my doubts.
In fact, most of these cars are second-hand one with high levels of carbon emissions. Sometimes, one wonders how certain cars, including American ones, such as Mustangs and Corvettes, just to mention two types, are being allowed in.
With a new budget in the offing, I wish to remind readers that last year’s budget included proposals for the decrease in the number of cars on our roads. One of these proposals was an incentive for motorcycles. Has this proposal proved useful? I do not think so. Any increase in the number of motorcycles did not bring about a decrease in traffic. Besides, I am under the impression that there was an increase in big heavy-duty motorcycles rather than the smaller ones. And most of the bikes cannot be used in winter, particularly in heavy rain.
My impression is that our transport policy is being guided by the interests of four major dealers who are making large profits. This should not be a problem. However, allow me to make a comment to the Minister of Finance and his Permanent Secretary and tell them that with their policies and measures, they are only helping these dealers to make profits. But just how many new jobs materialise in reality from these dealers? This is the question that both gentlemen should be asking before formulating their policies.
Indeed, certain rash decisions, taken solely for political gain, are now returning to haunt this government; decisions such as the removal from our streets of bendy-buses. Yet, despite that these buses are no longer clogging Maltese streets, as claimed by Boris Johnson, our streets remain clogged. Mizzi and Co removed the bendybuses but there has not been any tangible improvement whatsoever.
There are now Labour supporters who are asking for more accountability from Muscat’s government. They are putting pressure and are asking his ministers to deliver. If they fail, the Prime Minister is expected to take action. Should the Prime Minister choose to disregard such a call, Labourites are stating that the ministers have taken the Prime Minister for a ride - qeghdin jghadduh passata.
There were undertakings in the last budget (here I refer to pages 94-100 paragraph 7.8) regarding dual fuel. This measure has not been implemented. It would be a good exercise for the Opposition to go through the 2016 Budget and start analysing those measures that were not implemented and ask why.
The old Labour guard is now beginning to publicly state that they do not feel part of this Labour Government. This old guard still believes in the national cause but is more than ever ready to go on its own way.