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.

Malta Independent - - INTERVIEW -

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.

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