Pub­lic trans­port im­prov­ing in both in punc­tu­al­ity and af­ford­abil­ity – Joe Mizzi

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

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.”

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