[WATCH] For public transport to be efficient, 'improved infrastructure is a must'

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat says Labour to present proposals for new means of public transport, which will be up for consultation: 'There are choices to be made and proposals need to be publicly discussed'

From left: Parliamentary secretary Ian Borg, transport minister Joe Mizzi, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and justice minister Owen Bonnici
From left: Parliamentary secretary Ian Borg, transport minister Joe Mizzi, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and justice minister Owen Bonnici
For public transport to be efficient, 'improved infrastructure is a must'

Public transport can never be efficient unless Malta's infrastructure is improved, Prime Minister and Labour leader Joseph Muscat insisted today.

"The biggest problem is that buses get stuck in traffic, have to go through narrow roads and not enough dedicated bus lanes ... the ones we have stop midway," Muscat said.

Asked by MaltaToday whether the public transport should be nationalised in order to have more control over the service and provide a truly efficient service, Muscat insisted that the solution would be found in other measures.

"People want Valletta to be the central hub; the service has improved and we know that there are complaints on routes which are no longer serviced. But for the problem of delays to be addressed, we need to improve our roads."

As part of electoral pledge, the Labour administration will improve all of the island's roads over a seven-year period.

The Labour Party is against measures that "punish" users from making use of their own cars, and instead it wants to incentivise the use of public transport. It plans to do this by offering free transport to children, students and the elderly.

To address the parking problem, a Labour government would urge the private sector to develop private parking through tax incentives such as offering an advantageous 15% tax rate on the first seven years of operations.

Muscat argues that this won't increase the use of cars, but will address the congestion problem.

Mode of transport

In a press conference flanked by Transport Minister Joe Mizzi, Local Government Minister Owen Bonnici and parliamentary secretary for EU funds Ian Borg, Muscat argued that the Labour Party would be “illustrating” plans for different modes of transport, which would first be up for national discussion.

“It would be extremely naïve to say ‘this is the plan and it’s going to happen like this’,” he said, a dig aimed at the PN’s proposed €2.3 billion metro system that would be delivered over 20 years.

Muscat said that a number of “international companies” commissioned to draw up different plans had come up we a number of proposals: “There are choices to be made which require widespread consultation”.

In terms of school transport, the PL said it was against issuing "a maxi tender" that would effectively obliterate smaller bus drivers and owners. It is being proposed that greater coordination is implemented between schools, drivers and parents.

The PL also wants the government to hold full control over the local enforcement system by taking over the employment of wardens. This, the PL argues, would ensure that wardens are there to operate in favour of citizens, by focusing on “education” rather than “punishment”.

Free wifi on public transport

The PL is pledging to allow students, children, pensioners and disabled persons to make use of free public transport.

Free wifi will be offered on buses whilst new bus shelters will be introduced, equipped with smart technology that allows commuters to know what time the next bus is due.

A programme will be introduced for those who choose to renounce their driving licence, who will in turn be allowed to make use of public transport for free. The licence holder can decide the length of the period he or she will opt for this programme.

Workers employed with government agencies, departments and entities will be offered free public transport for a year. Private companies are being urged to do the same.

‘Clean transport’

Cars’ tax registration system will be reformed in a way that encourages the use of cars that are environmentally-friendly; this would also include big cars with low emissions.

Schemes to scrap old cars will be retained, and those who opt to scrap their car and get a motorcycle (up to 125cc) will be eligible for a voucher up to €2,500.

A smart-parking technology project will be unveiled across the country allowing drivers to make use of mobile apps for real-time available parking spaces. Parking, the PL said, will remain for free.

In order to create demand in the local market, the PL is pledging that a Labour government would give preference to hybrid cars, electric and those running on gas when procuring cars for use by public workers.

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