Gozo tunnel should be replaced by metro link, Chamber says

Malta Chamber urges government to reconsider Gozo tunnel as it launches 2020-2025 economic vision

The government should rethink investing in a tunnel between Malta and Gozo, the Malta Chamber of Commerce said in its economic vision for the next five years
The government should rethink investing in a tunnel between Malta and Gozo, the Malta Chamber of Commerce said in its economic vision for the next five years

The Malta Chamber has said the government should reconsider investing in a Gozo tunnel and instead direct the funds to building a multi-modal transport backbone including Gozo metro connectivity.

The Chamber today launched its economic vision for the country for the next five years, proposing a two-pronged approach based on targeting swift economic aimed at securing sustainable development and enhancing people’s quality of life.

The 2020-2025 vision includes 59 recommendations drawn up through a consultation process involving 26 top business executives from diverse economic sector and coordinated by former Enemalta CEO and government consultant David Spiteri Gingell.

Amongst the most salient recommendations is that the government reconsider the investment in the tunnel between Malta and Gozo, and instead direct the investment towards the building of a multi-modal transportation backbone with metro connectivity to Gozo.

"All in all, public transport systems in the country need to evolve. Technical and financial feasibility studies should therefore take place on rapid transit solutions that can be implemented in reasonable time frames," the Chamber said.

The Chamber said the introduction of a fourth ferry between Malta and Gozo has decisively shown, as evidenced by Gozitan civil society and citizen feedback, that most of the connectivity issues are now resolved.

“A fourth ferry that operates on a 24/7 basis – or even a fifth ferry that connects Mġarr to Valletta – would provide improved service connectivity for Gozitans working in the Valletta–Cottonera–Sliema area also by means of the inter-modality links with the Valletta–Cottonera and Valletta–Sliema ferries,” the Chamber said.

“This will remove traffic congestion that results from GHG emitting heavy-goods vehicles,” it said.

“A fast ferry connection between Mġarr, Buġibba, Sliema, Valletta, and Cottonera would potentially attract knowledge-based industries to Gozo as it would provide employees with easy access to entertainment areas, assuming that these are industries that are mainly resourced by young people who are generally known for their ‘work hard, play hard’ attitude.”

Smart, sustainable island

The Chamber’s overall vision is for a smart, sustainable island which sets the pathway for Malta’s future economic growth and social wealth, Malta Chamber director Kevin Borg said.

Borg said the gist of the recommendations - which span core industries such as tourism, construction, manufacturing, financial services and iGaming - was that, over the next five years, Malta should achieve economic growth through using innovation, employing knowledge and up-skilling.

Malta Chamber president David Xuereb said the proposals were tangible, real, sustainable and would add to quality of life.

He underlined, that, for the first time, the Chamber would be actively measuring the implementation of the recommendations through a series of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for each recommendation, which have been drawn up with the help of a economist and statistician.

The KPIs, which will be published in the coming weeks, will be followed up every six months with the respective ministries and institutions responsible for putting the recommendations in place, he said.

Xuereb said the Chamber wanted to “get its hands dirty” to ensure that the progress to implement the recommendations was measured and that they led to tangible benefits.

Goals can only be achieved if reputational damage is fixed

Borg said that the two-pronged approach rested on four fundamentals: governance and the judiciary, long-term macroeconomic stability, digitalisation and addressing infrastructural bottlenecks.

In terms of good governance, Borg said the reputation of brand Malta had suffered damage and that a thorough clean-up was needed. “Without this, we cannot achieve our economic goals,” he said.

When it came to long-term macroeconomic stability, he said that while the economy had been doing exceptionally well in the past years, attention must be paid to three areas - pensions, health care and care of the elderly - to ensure the country wasn’t taken over by expenditure due to people’s increased longevity.

On digitalisation, Borg said Malta should embrace 5G and encourage the more widespread use of digital tools.

Infrastructural bottlenecks, moreover, had to be addressed and traffic congestions, emissions and transport costs for citizens and companies should be lowered. Within this context, the Chamber is proposing that the government rethink the tunnel between Malta and Gozo, and instead direct the investment towards the building of a multi-modal transportation backbone with metro connectivity to Gozo.

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