Transport Malta issues clearance for Pembroke high-rise

TM clearance conditional on letter of commitment by government to implement 1.4km tunnel linking St George’s Bay to Pembroke

Transport Malta has issued its clearance for the development of the 38-storey residential tower and 17-storey hotel on the site formerly occupied by the Institute of Tourism Studies.

But Transport Malta’s clearance is conditional on the government presenting a “letter of commitment” to implement the “required transport infrastructure within an appropriate time-frame” – a tunnel link that will ensure traffic generated by the City Centre project does not result in traffic exceeding the road capacity.

The contract through which the land was transferred to the DB Group states clearly that the government has to “undertake at its sole cost, risk, legal and financial liability” the “required improvements to the road and utilities infrastructure leading to the site”. On the other hand, the company is held responsible for all the infrastructural works within the boundaries of the site.

The government has so far been evasive when asked whether it will be footing the bill for the new tunnel, insisting that this was premature as technical studies are still underway.

The TM’s clearance was also issued on condition that the developers themselves commit themselves to the implementation of a green travel plan for a period of five years to minimize traffic. They will also have to appoint a coordinator who will liaise directly with TM on the implementation of the plan.

The Green Travel Plan includes a number of targets, which include a commitment that by 2025 10% of employees will be opting for car-pooling, and that 20% of housekeeping and food and beverage employees will be using a mini-van service. To encourage car-pooling amongst all the users of the City Centre, the Project promoters will offer reduced parking fees for car-sharers.

Together with other projects earmarked in St George’s Bay, and primarily the approved Villa Rosa project, the development is expected to increase the flow of traffic to the area by an average of 7,000 daily car trips.

Traffic impact studies have shown that present-day road junctions cannot cope with this increase in traffic. This has made the development of a tunnel mandatory and plans for the tunnel are being assessed as part of the City Centre’s planning application.

While giving its clearance through a letter sent to the Planning Authority on 8 August, Transport Malta made it clear that the final plans still need the final approval of Infrastructure Malta, the new roads agency, which will have to determine whether the tunnel proposal is the optimal solution, and whether this could be improved upon or whether alternative proposals can perform better.

According to the latest plans by the DB Group, the 1.4 km long tunnel’s western portal of the tunnel will be located on a new road connecting Triq il-Mediterran to the Coast Road, whilst the eastern section will link to three underground car parks at City Centre, and the Radisson Blu and Corinthia hotels. The tunnel will be excavated by an underground rotary header and will pass under a Natura 2000 site, but the developers’ environmental impact assessment reports that no habitat loss or damage is expected since the excavation work will be underground. The tunnel will produce a staggering 100,000 cubic metres of construction waste – half of which may be reusable in the tunnel structure itself.

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