Central Link Project kicks off with excavations along route

Work on the €55 million Central Link Project got underway today with excavations for the foundations of the new lanes, footpaths, bus lay-bys and cycle tracks that will be built from the Mriehel Bypass to the roundabout at the foot of Saqqajja Hill

Infrastructure Malta’s contractors started the Central Link Project, a €55 million investment touted to reduce travel times, improve air quality and create safer spaces for alternative modes of travel along the arterial road corridor between Mriehel and Ta’ Qali.

The project caused controversy when it was first proposed, culminating in a protest along the Rabat road last August. Opponents have decried the loss of agricultural land and the trees that will be uprooted in some areas along the route.

Project plans were approved by the Planning Authority and reviewed by the European Commission in 2019.

Last November, these plans were also reconfirmed by the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal, which rejected a request by NGOs and seven individuals to revoke the project’s permits. A few days ago, the Civil Court’s First Hall also refused a request for a prohibitory injunction made by the same groups and reaffirmed that Infrastructure Malta can start implementing the project immediately.     

The Central Link Project is based on plans included in the 2006 Central Malta Local Plan, which had already indicated congestion along Mdina Road, In-Nutar Zarb Road and other nearby roads as a major problem for Attard and nearby localities.

Infrastructure Malta redesigned the plans to reduce the uptake of agricultural land.

The National Transport Master Plan 2025 also lists the route as one of 29 priority sections of the EU’s TEN-T network in Malta that need to be urgently upgraded for increased safety and efficiency.

The agency has argued that the project will halve travel times in the area and drastically reduce congestion pollution in nearby residential areas by reconstructing 13 junctions, removing four traffic lights systems and adding over seven kilometres of new lanes along a 4.3 kilometre road corridor.

It also introduces many facilities for alternative modes of travel, including over 10 kilometres of safe pedestrian footpaths and segregated crossings, bus lay-bys and the longest segregated cycle track in the Maltese Islands, connecting Mriehel, Birkirkara, Balzan, Attard and Ta’ Qali.

Infrastructure Malta said it will also develop over 24,000 square metres of new green landscaped areas along the project route and plant more trees than will be uprooted.    

Initial works starting this week include the excavations for the foundations of the new lanes, footpaths, bus lay-bys and cycle tracks that will be built along the project route, which extends from the Mriehel Bypass, along L-Imdina Road, through Birkirkara, Balzan and Attard, to the roundabout at the foot of Saqqajja Hill, at Ta’ Qali.

Infrastructure Malta is coordinating the works in different phases to minimise difficulties to over 30,000 road users who use this part of the network every day, and to nearby residents in Birkirkara, Balzan and Attard.

During this initial stage of the project, all existing lanes will remain open. The agency’s projects team will communicate any works necessitating lane closures to road users in advance and will make sure that such disruptions are scheduled to off peak hours, with adequate diversions and alternative routes.

Central Link appellants condemn 'total disregard of the appeal process'

The Bicycle Advocacy group has condemned the total “disregard” of the appeals process in the case of the Central Link Project.  

In a statement on Tuesday; BAG said that despite assurances of compensation to farmers, careful relocation of water reservoirs and dialogue with stakeholders Infrastructure Malta will “bulldoze ahead with the Central Link Project even though the Court of Appeals has not yet decided on the case.”

Speaking on behalf of the appellants in the case, the NGO condemned the action, stating that the rights of stakeholders could not be respected if fields are asphalted over, trees are uprooted, vernacular structures are demolished and the central vista leading up to Mdina is “forever destroyed to be replaced by a four-lane busy car highway.”

BAG said that appellants in the Central Link case had found out that works were about to start before Christmas and filed a prohibitory injunction to try and stop them until the Court of Appeal could decide on the matter.

“The First Hall of the Civil Court decided that since the Court of Appeal judgment was imminent, any works carried out would not be irreversible and there would be no irrevocable prejudice. The fact that Infrastructure Malta has not even respected the spirit of this decision - and is trying to force as much work through before the Appeal hearing next week - is indicative of its modus operandi. But then - this is the same entity which is causing havoc in Wied Qirda without a permit. What else can we expect?”

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