Public transport improving in both in punctuality and affordability – Joe Mizzi
Transport Minister Joe Mizzi yesterday criticised the Nationalist Party’s “hypocrisy” for taking the current administration to task over an inability to tackle traffic congestion since it failed to address the crumbling infrastructure during its 25 years in government.
Mr Mizzi said today that 43 million passengers used public transport this year, up from 40 million the previous year.
He was delivering his Parliamentary speech on the Transport and Infrastructure budget.
“Thanks to economic growth, the majority of people work. We have 22,000 more persons working, more women working, more students past secondary education, record numbers of tourists, etc. The majority of locals have private vehicles. We calculate that in two years there was a 30% rise in vehicles on the road during peak hours.”
“Public Transport is an important pillar to address traffic congestion,” he said. “Thanks to reforms over the past years, public transport is again earning the trust it lost. Routes were redesigned to reach the needs of citizens.”
The public transport service, he said that the service is improving, he said, “both in punctuality and affordability. But it’s never enough and we must keep working.”
He said that the Tallinja card seems to be popular among those over 60. “Seventy-five per cent of these people have such a card.”
“The PN says what is bad is the fault of today’s government, and what is good is thanks to the last legislature. We are not like that. We want to take decisions and we do. What there is today is our responsibility.”
Turning to the PN’s idea for a tram service, he said the PN recycled the idea from back in 2008.
He said, “Our roads can’t handle the current volume of cars, imagine another structure on it. In 2008, former minister Austin Gatt commissioned a company to study it. A study that was never mentioned again as after these conclusions, Austin Gatt said government will refocus on reforming public transport system.”
The minister said, addressing concerns, that government will not be introducing some form of congestion tax, or parking tax.
“Malta is a small country, like a small EU city. As we know, in every EU city centre, traffic is a problem. We recognised we have traffic problem and began working on it. Over past three years we identified past mistakes and realised there was no national plan. There was no holistic plan for parking and the system is not regulated.”
He spoke of the introduction of the tidal lanes, and said that the Marsa junction project will help solve bottlenecks. Turning to the park and ride in the same area, he criticised the PN for saying that the only reason for the project was due to Super One being situated there, and said that the government acquired EU funds for it. He also mentioned a number of road traffic adjustments which will be made, including one at the Lija roundabout.
“Transport Malta is conducting an educational campaign regarding safety on roads”.
The minister mentioned that through a budgetary incentive, companies will be able to provide free transport for employees. He welcomed introductions like the Tallinja card, free public transport for 18-year-olds, etc.
He spoke of the national transport strategy, and said it is the first one in Maltese history. He said that feedback was received by sections of society, but not from the PN .
The minister mentioned that the Transport Master Plan includes four large projects, like the Kappara Junction project, and together they are planned to be concluded by 2025.
The minister also spoke of the 1.7 million given to touristic zones such as Sliema, St Julian’s and Buġibba to assist in the cleaning of the locality, as well as the introduction of master plans in historical areas like Valletta, Mdina, and Bormla involving waste management of the areas.
Earlier, PN shadow Minister for Transport Marthese Portelli slammed Transport Minister Joe Mizzi, on his lack of action when it comes to handling the transport sector and the lack of budgetary measures
She said that the traffic problem is a serious one that worsens as time passes. She criticised the government for not addressing the situation. “The only thing they have done is say that our 35 proposals should be thrown out as we don’t know what we are talking about. Once this fourth budget came around, we expected this ministry to shift into 6th gear and at last address the traffic problems.”
She criticised the budget, saying that there are only three points on traffic mentioned, “a tax credit for transporting workers, a sustainable transport plan from public entities, and a free year’s travel for those turning 18.” She said that the first two of the three aforementioned government proposals were either taken from the PN document or are less than what the PN proposed. “As for the free bus travel, she said people have called her saying students are learning to drive when they turn 18, and so they do not have a car to drive during that year. “What are you saying, that you are implementing this to reduce traffic, when these people can’t drive yet?”
She said that there are solutions to the problem which the PN had published over six months ago. She mentioned some of the PN proposals, including free publicly-funded school transport for all schools, dedicated transport routes to and from centres of concentration such as the University, MCAST, Junior College, popular markets, major employment nodes etc, affordable taxis, etc.
“All these proposals are in the report commissioned by the ministry. The proposals in the minister’s commissioned document included all of our proposals, which we released before the re- port was ready. If you call our proposals bad, then say the same thing to your consultants.”
Turning to bus drivers, she said that they have tough working conditions. “I spoke about the need for drivers to have a break last year as many of them can’t take it. Today, they have the same problem. Tell me, would you drive for twelve hours without a break? This is perilous for both the driver and passengers.”
Dr Portelli asked where the €30 million subsidy given to the bus operator is going.
“Telling us that the number of routes have increased, that more people are using the system is pointless when there are those who spend hours waiting on the stage, when there are people waiting two hours to reach their destination. These are things that the ministry must address with the operator.”