Updated | DB Project can only open for business after completion of tunnel

​The DB Group’s City Centre high-rise can be built but will only be able to operate on completion if Transport Malta is satisfied that the road infrastructure at that point in time could cater for the additional 7,000 car trips created by the project

An artistic rendition of the proposed DB Tower in Pembroke
An artistic rendition of the proposed DB Tower in Pembroke

Updated at 10.35am with correction

The DB Group’s high-rise project in St George’s Bay can only start operating once Transport Malta is satisfied that the road infrastructure can cater for the additional 7,000 car trips created by the project.

This means that works on the project can start without the need to have a road tunnel in place beforehand. However, the development will only be able to open for business if at the point of completion, Transport Malta certifies that the road infrastructure able to handle the additional car trips.  

In a decision by the Planning Authority’s review tribunal, DB’s City Centre high-rise will need ‘certification’ from Transport Malta confirming that “the existing road network infrastructure is adequate to cater for the generation of traffic” created by the project, before a compliance certificate – a requirement before the project can start operating – is issued.

Legal and planning experts confirmed that this means that plans for a tunnel or alternative infrastructure must be in place before the DB project can open for business.

This may delay the project because Transport Malta still has to present an application for the development of a tunnel linking St Andrews and St George’s Bay. 

Moreover the existing infrastructure is not even considered adequate for traffic flows even in the absence of the DB project.

In fact when asked by the appellants whether the three main junctions in the area “would fail even more spectacularly” with the traffic created by the development, Transport Malta’s traffic expert David Sutton replied in the positive.

Infrastructure Malta confirmed that it will be applying for the proposed tunnel but it will be making changes to the designs presented by the DB Group.

When deliberating on this point, the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal first dismissed the appellants’ claim that the proposed tunnel was “fictitious”, noting that the tunnel is essential for the project to take place.

But than it also dismissed the Planning Authority’s argument that the tunnel was a “mitigation measure” which can be replaced by other measures if it deemed fit, noting that the permit for the City Centre development makes the tunnel link mandatory, but that there is “no obligation that this development is approved and implemented.”

This means the project “can only function when the tunnel, which has not yet been approved, is completed” and that for “a sense of certainty” a full compliance certificate should only be issued when the PA is satisfied that the road infrastructure can cater for the increased traffic resulting from the project.

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.

A report by the Environment and Resources Authority also deems the tunnel as essential to counter an increase in congestion and emissions. The tunnel will produce a staggering 100,000 cubic metres of construction waste – half of which may be reusable in the tunnel structure itself.

According to plans by the db Group, the 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 Raddison Blu and Corinthia hotels.

Correction: An earlier version of this report wrongly stated that work on the DB project could only start if a proposed road tunnel to improve traffic flow in the area is built by the government

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