CC COVER STORY island’s transport infrastructure. The current situation is unacceptable, as is the cost to the economy. Such funds could be invested in myriad other areas of the economy and put to better use,” the Director General continues. The local traffic situation is also made reference to in the recently published Country Report for Malta 2017 by the European Commission, which says, “road infrastructure is under heavy pressure and often highly congested.” Asked what he feels the primary factors contributing to the traffic situation are, Minister Mizzi lists the public transport system, which up until three years ago, he says, did not meet the needs of patrons. “As a result, public transport patronage decreased drastically. Apart from that, we cannot ignore the fact that the private car is like a status symbol,” he continues, arguing that many people enjoy driving and are dependent on their cars, even in a scenario where the public transport system works perfectly well. Moving on to the country’s infrastructure, the Transport Minister explains that the road infrastructure footprint has not changed much over the past 28 years – meaning the road network today is basically the same as it was 28 years ago. “As traffic volumes increased drastically during the past three decades, the road infrastructure did not expand accordingly to meet the increase in demand. Whilst we appreciate that we cannot continue to build more and more roads, we still need to establish a network which meets the traffic demand. Various measures are being taken to address the traffic situation,” he says. So what is currently being done to tackle the situation? Minister Mizzi maintains that in recent years, Transport Malta has been modifying and improving junctions to maximise the capacity within our limited infrastructure. “During the past two years, Transport Malta was the main driver behind the complete revamp of the public transport service, which, under new company Malta Public Transport, registered an unprecedented 24 per cent increase in bus patronage. The Authority also embarked on an Intelligent Traffic Management System which implements intelligent infrastructure in Malta,” he says, going on to list the rebuilding of the Coast Road, “increasing its capacity and safety”, and ongoing works on the Kappara junction project “which will increase capacity and remove a major bottleneck on our road network.” On behalf of the Chamber, Mr Borg attests that Malta Chamber has taken this subject very seriously, having organised a number of events, inviting stakeholders, and international experts to discuss the subject. “The Chamber is of the opinion that Malta’s transportation infrastructure needs major investments. In order to build the safest, most effective and sustainable multimodal APRIL / MAY 2017
transportation system, the country needs a new strategy based on an economically, environmentally and socially sustainable plan. This plan must involve the private sector through Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) or other joint ventures from inception, and most importantly, it must form part of a long-term vision for the country’s transport needs,” he says. Bringing a European perspective to bear on the situation, Malta Business Bureau CEO Joe Tanti reveals that traffic congestion in Europe is estimated to cost the EU a whopping €80 billion annually. “50 per cent of all Europeans still commute by car each day. In recent years however, several European countries have started analysing
various approaches and identifying best practices in urban planning. Malta should now be looking towards its European neighbours to identify new and emerging trends – such as the sharing economy – which are creating new opportunities and helping to ease the burden of many of today’s issues, including traffic congestions,” he maintains. Mr Tanti goes on to state that all over Europe, one can see significant efforts being made to relieve cities and regions of traffic issues. “Copenhagen is slowly becoming one of the biggest cycling regions in the world through the construction of a great network of cycle super highways to promote the use of bicycles as a primary means of transport.
“As traffic volumes increased drastically during the past three decades, the road infrastructure did not expand accordingly to meet the increase in demand.” Joe Mizzi, Minister for Transport and Infrastructure
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