Transport | Few concrete measures to reduce car dependency in Budget

€100 million for road building, €1 million for urban gardens

The Budget underlines the government’s strategy aimed at reducing“dependency on private cars”but falls short of any disincentives penalising car owners or measures encouraging car pooling with the main measure being that of offering free public transport to those aged between 14 and 16 who will join those aged between 16 and 20 who already benefit from free public transport. The Budget also renews VAT refund schemes for bicycles, scooters and motorbikes and the exemption from registration tax for electric cars.

The  Budget reaffirms the  government’s commitment for road-building projects while acknowledging a need to“marry the necessary development of roads with the protection of green areas and trees,” in what could be seen as a recognition of criticism that such projects are taking a toll on agricultural land and mature roadside trees. In his speech Scicluna himself declared that the government “understands” this criticism.

With this aim in mind, next year the government is allocating €1 million for the creation of more green areas and “urban gardens”as part of these projects and in a highly symbolic gesture a tree will be planted for every car which is imported.

But in a sign that improving road infrastructure remains a priority, the Budget includes a commitment for €100 million investment in roads in Malta and Gozo.

The Budget does not refer to individual road projects, most of which have already been announced. No reference is made in the Budget to the development of a mass transit transport system like a metro or monorail. Only three months ago Transport Minister Ian Borg had announced that studies are being carried out by Arup, a London-based engineering and consultancy firm to assess which mass transit option is best for Malta.

But the Budget does include more concrete plans for maritime transport such as the already announced ferry landing infrastructure for maritime transport in Bormla, Sliema and Valletta.  And significantly, for the first time, the government also referred to the development of similar infrastructure in St Paul’s Bay, St Julian’s and Ta’Xbiex.

The government also announced a new scheme to incentivise private developers to develop more carparks which will have a roof garden in urban areas.