'Public transport drivers will not lose their jobs' - Mizzi

Transport minister Joe Mizzi says €23 million yearly subsidies was advantageous when compared to other countries  

Transport minister Joe Mizzi this evening reassured public transport employees that once the Spanish company takes over the service next year no jobs will be shed, adding instead that new jobs will be created.

Addressing the third event in a series of public meetings for Cabinet ministers, Mizzi was asked whether Autobuses de Leon would be replacing Maltese drivers with foreigners to which Mizzi replied "while some Maltese drivers need to improve their attitude to come at a par with foreign drivers but Put your mind at rest, Maltese drivers will not lose their jobs."

Moreover, Mizzi noted that a call for applications for new driver vacancies was issued and encouraged the people present to apply.
The minister said that upon getting elected in 2013, it was clear public transport was riddled with problems but Mizzi insisted that huge improvements were achieved in 18 months and "these are visible for all to see."

Earlier this week, the agreement to operate Malta's public transport was delayed after the civil court provisionally issued a warrant of injunction prohibiting the government from signing a contract with Spanish operators Autobuses de Leon.

The injunction against the Government, the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, Transport Malta, Malta Public Transport Services (Operations) Limited and Malta Public Transport Services Limited, prevents any contract, agreement or arrangement from being made with the Spanish bus operator or its Maltese subsidiary Malta Lines Limited.

Asked whether the deal was right, Mizzi said that the €23 million in subsidies government will pay in the first year is good value for money, especially when compared to what other European governments pay in subsides. 

Turning to the traffic problems which is giving thousands of motorists a headache on a daily basis, Mizzi admitted that the road infrastructure is not adequate for the large number of vehicles in the country and reiterated that government has embarked on a number of projects to address the situation. 

These include plans for a car pooling scheme, better use of traffic lights and other traffic management measures. 

"We inherited a number of uncompleted projects such as the Marsa and Bormla road upgrades. However I did not waste my time grumbling but we rolled our sleeves up and got down to work."

Noting that in 2013 more than 235,000 vehicles were registered, Mizzi said that the solutions to the traffic problem are costly and require a big workforce.

He pointed out that over the next few years government will commence road improvement projects in Marsa and the Kappara junction, however Mizzi said that projects cannot be carried out concurrently as this would compound traffic congestion. 

Admitting that his ministry is responsible for a number of problematic areas, Mizzi said that transport and infrastructure require huge budgets and must work within the budgetary limitations. 

In reply to a question on oil exploration and the chances if striking gold, Mizzi said new legislation will be presented in Parliament in the coming weeks, adding that "government has not given up on finding oil in Maltese seas."

He said that government was looking at attracting more foreign companies to invest in new exploration projects and resolve disputes over territories with neighboring countries.