Central Link: government’s own policies ignored

It is highly irresponsible if not downright stupid to build an expensive system, and then at the same time increase space for cars on the roads

Government has also announced that it is studying a new mass transport system such  as light rail or metro
Government has also announced that it is studying a new mass transport system such as light rail or metro

It is really sad that so many people cannot see beyond the end of their noses on some issues. One of them is when it comes to road building. The new agency Infrastructure Malta probably has the easiest job of all, at least when it comes to public relations – so many people get over excited like kids at Disneyland when plans for new roads are announced with all the pomp and circumstance we are so used to by now.

Obviously petrolheads cannot contain their excitement and like donkeys in Pinocchio’s circus repeat the same old tricks and myths peddled by governments for years on end.

I am proud that Attard Local Council carried my motion with six votes to two on the Central Link Project. What is amazing is that critics seemingly have not even read the text of the motion or the reports in the newspapers about it before repeating their ill-informed and sometimes downright stupid comments all over social media. It seems that some are not embarrassed to display their ignorance for all and sundry to ‘appreciate’.

One petrolhead in particular, posing next to his dear polished and shiny car on Facebook announced that the council decision was ‘not in my name’. Fine – I’m proud of that. Representation is not about peddling myths, it is about bringing forward serious, thought-out, and principled proposals. Not in your name indeed!

Now for the facts: the Central Link project ignores government policy. Ironically the government is ignoring the Transport Master Plan 2025 (September 2016) and the Strategic Plan for Environment and Development (SPED) (July 2015). The motion quotes verbatim from these documents.

Here are some excerpts:

The planning policy document Strategic Plan for Environment and Development (SPED) insists on the need to:

•  Page 23: To facilitate the modal shift through the provision of an integrated transport network...by ... Shifting the emphasis from new road construction to better integration of public transport priority measures on better managed roads.

•  Page 23: To facilitate the provision of an efficient public transport service and other green modes.

•  Page 22: To combat climate change by ‘improving public/collective transport as a high priority adaptation measure for Climate Change’.

The document Transport Master Plan 2025, amongst measure to reduce and control traffic demands that as a country we:

• Develop and incentivise schemes to promote multiple occupancy, alternative modes as well as reduce the need to travel in peak hours (p.64)

• Develop a framework for the introduction and implementation of Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMPs) in Malta and Gozo (p.69)

• Study the potential to introduce Low Emission Zones in dense and polluted urban areas (p.82)

• Increase use of Intelligent Transport Systems in Traffic Management (p.118)

• Implement Public Transit Quality Corridors for: Sliema – Msida – Valletta Tarxien – Fgura – Marsa – Valletta; Mosta - Birkirkara – Msida – Valletta Naxxar – Birkirkara – Hamrun – Valletta; Mosta – Birkirkara – University – Msida; Attard – Birkirkara – Hamrun – Valletta; Qormi – Hamrun – Valletta (p.136)

• Optimise use of existing Park and Ride facilities and develop new sites at strategic locations to encourage modal interchange (p.142).

What’s more, the real traffic experts (not some association of petrolheads calling for cheap fuel and more pollution and climate change) explain that new roads bring more traffic and more congestion and speak of the need to design urban areas to favour people and not cars. The concept of induced demand has been proved over and over again. The real traffic experts aim to reduce traffic, something which government after government never had the proverbial balls to do.

More roads in an over-built country do not make sense. With the Central Link a whole area in Attard will be rendered a roundabout for traffic. Egoists say that it will reduce traffic from the other side of the town. Simply not true. Anyone with an ounce of sense and the willingness to research a tiny bit knows that it is only a modal shift – a shift to other forms or at least mixed forms of travel that will really make a difference. The egoists do not care that good agricultural land will be destroyed. Egoists don’t care because they think they will speed through Attard as if they’ll be the only ones passing through. A total myth.

The ridiculous claims that pollution will decrease are incredible – it might be shifted somewhere else and decrease slightly until the road becomes clogged with traffic again in a few years’ time. Anyway, government, the Prime Minister no less, has declared that it will soon announce a phase-out of diesel and petrol – probably because other EU countries will do it and Malta has no choice but to follow suit.

Government has also announced that it is studying a new mass transport system such as light rail or metro. This will reduce traffic if it is implemented well and a shift to it is ensured by the proper implementation of policies prioritising people instead of cars. It is highly irresponsible if not downright stupid to build an expensive system and then at the same time increase space for cars on the roads. What a disaster!

Those of you who really care about our country can look up the policy documents I mentioned and see for themselves.

They can also look up reliable sources on the internet and read, for example, that Mexico City, despite vast amounts of money wasted on wide roads still ends up with nightmarish, polluting traffic jams.

They can read about cities like Freiburg in Germany and how their Green-led council transformed the small city by implementing serious sustainable mobility policies.

And you can object to the Central Link Project (PA9890/17) through the Planning Authority website or through this link: http://pa.movimentgraffitti.org/permit/4 hosted on the ever helpful, altruistic and consistent Moviment Graffitti’s website.

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