Road agency to be launched next year to manage road infrastructure

A road agency coordinating road works and tasked with monitoring road maintenance will be set up in 2018, Finance Minister Edward Scicluna has announced

The agency will focus on easing traffic congestion and will work alongside Transport Malta to plan and watch over Malta’s road network and contractual developments. 

Architects, engineers and other professionals will form part of the new road agency, Scicluna said during his 2018 budget speech. 

“Next year will be a learning curve, so that during 2019 we would have increased our capacity to complete a substantial number of road works every year,” Scicluna said. 

The move is part of a €700 million roads project unveiled during the Labour Party’s election manifesto.

The project is expected to span seven years.

Around 160 residential roads are to be revamped next year. A two-year project modernising the Sta Venera, Regional Road and Ħal Kirkop tunnels will see the areas “upgraded with better lighting and security systems.”

“We are working to ensure that our social partners are prepared for the road works projects that we will be launching, so that we will be finishing these in a short stretch of time,” the minister said.   

Work will also commence on the widening of the Mistra bridge towards the Selmun junction, Buqana Street in Rabat and the Wied il-Qliegħa junction. An underpass from Vjal Santa Lucija will be added to the Marsa multilevel junction project.  

More than 25 projects have been completed during the past months, Scicluna said, touting the Marsa-Ħamrun bypass project and the Kappara junction, which is expected to be completed this year, as evidence of the government’s successes.

The Kappara junction has been described as one of the government’s most successful efforts to curb traffic jams. Two bridges from the Kappara junction were opened in September, before the start of the new scholastic year. 

Bontadini Road in Birkirkara, the Domus Ramana in Rabat and Triq Birkirkara, Attard have all been improved following last year’s budget, Scicluna said. 


Free bus scheme extended to 16- to 20-year olds

Youths aged 16-20 will be able to travel by bus for free starting from the day they turn 16, finance minister Edward Scicluna announced.

“This will lead to more conscious decisions favouring public transport use, in students who have reached an age where they can make conscious decisions about transport,” he said.

The education ministry will also be starting talks with church and private schools to give free transport to all students during the 2018 scholastic year. 

The measure is one of the pledges of the Labour Party general election manifesto, which said that the government intended to offer free, supervised transport to students attending all schools. 

The government will also be working to extend car-pooling initiatives. Car-pooling is currently given priority in bus lanes. An additional €10,000 grant will be given to wheelchair accessible taxis.


Bicycle incentives

The government is reintroducing a scheme under which people who purchase bicycles, electric bicycles, or pedelecs will receive a grant of 15.25% on the purchase price of the bike.  This grant will be extended to companies that offer bicycles for rent.

Motorbikes, scooters and motorised bicycles will be given a grant of up to €400. Cyclists using a bicycle with an electric motor will also be exempted from paying VAT.

In an attempt to encourage more cyclists on the road, the VAT rate on the rental of bicycles will be lowered from 18% to 7%. 

A new scheme, dubbed ‘Share the Road,’ will see the installation of CCTVs and “electronic messages that give priority to cyclists.” Two urban pathways, one from Valletta to St Julian’s and another from Mosta to the University of Malta, will be targeted to increase security for cyclists.

The government will also extend last year’s fund set up to encourage local councils to invest in bicycle racks.


Electric, hybrid cars to be exempted from licence and registration tax

Electric and hybrid vehicles and their derivatives will be exempted from registration tax, finance minister Edward Scicluna announced. 

Drivers of electric cars will also be exempted from paying road licences for the first five years after registering their new car.

The schemes, unveiled in next year’s budget, are part of the government’s effort to establish a cut-off date by which the sale of diesel and petrol powered cars are removed from Maltese roads. 

As of 2018, the state will once again be incentivising the purchase of electric equipment. Commercial cars will also benefit by up to €200,000, if eligible for help from the state.

“For another year, the government will be extending the scheme giving grants to those who change their cars to a gas powered car rather than a petrol-powered one,” Scicluna announced.