More roads not the answer to traffic problems – Green MEP

Chair of the European Committee on Transport says that expanding road networks will only encourage people to use private cars

Michael Cramer
Michael Cramer

The Chair of the European Committee on Transport and Tourism, Michael Cramer, criticised Malta for not taking the right steps to tackle its growing traffic problem.

“Expanding road networks will only attract more cars to them and this will eventually destroy Malta,” the German Green MEP told MaltaToday. “Cars are murdering the roads.”

His comments come after Finance Minister Edward Scicluna called for better investment.

“The best investment we can make is on our roads, because it makes traffic go faster and reduces car congestion,” Scicluna said, adding that faster transport routes can lead to lower business costs.

But Cramer said that Malta has been trying to solve its traffic problems for the past 50 years but it’s only getting worse. “The only solution is public transport. One bus can take the place of 80 cars. Yet Malta has largely done nothing to improve its public transport system.” 

Cramer spent 15 years in Berlin’s city-state parliament as the Greens’ transport spokesman before joining the European Parliament.

“In Berlin, one in every two households doesn’t own a car because the public transport there is very efficient,” Cramer, a non-driver himself, said. “Malta needs to invest in its public transport system and introduce a tram or railway line.”

The most recent national statistics show that 329,053 motor vehicles are licensed in Malta, 58,000 more than were licensed in 2004. 252,547 of them are passenger vehicles. Statistics website Index Mundi placed Malta in the top 10 countries with the highest rate of cars per person, behind only San Marino, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Luxembourg, Iceland, Puerto Rico, Italy, and New Zealand.

Cramer’s fears were echoed by architect and Alternattiva Demokratika vice-chair Carmel Cacopardo.

“Malta’s car statistics are alarming and EU funds should not be allocated on road projects that will encourage more people to use private cars,” Cacopardo said. “We should encourage people to use public transport. Malta has ignored public transport for the past 50 years.

“Scicluna is just throwing money at problems.”

Former Nationalist Transport Minister Jesmond Mugliett seems to be cut from the same cloth as the Finance Minister.

“Malta’s road system shouldn’t be sub-standard. If some streets need to be widened or if they are defined for upgrading by the 10-T network, we cannot leave them as they are,” Mugliett told MaltaToday. “Some parts of the Trans-European Transport Network (10-T) like St Andrew’s Road and Mistra Road are too narrow for traffic.”

 “However, we can resolve a lot of our traffic problems simply by arranging faulty junctions,” Mugliett added. “There are a lot of junctions, such as in Marsa, Kappara and Xemxija, that cause bottlenecks.”