Transport regulator ‘to actively look’ into free public transport proposal

Transport Malta CEO says Finance Minister’s proposal ‘should be pursued’

Transport Malta will be studying the option of offering a free public transport service during peak hours.

Reacting to a report on MaltaToday.com.mt, Transport Malta CEO James Piscopo said that “the idea should be pursued”.

During a conference on Friday morning, Finance Minister Edward Scicluna said it was time for the government to study the option of providing free transport during peak hours.

"Malta has subsidised public transport services generously to keep fares as affordable and low as possible to encourage people to make use of buses," Scicluna said. "We should study the option of free transport during peak hours."

Piscopo told MaltaToday that “it is an interesting proposal that Transport Malta will actively look into”.

Parliament had recently discussed the ever increasing traffic problem and the lack of traffic management, following a motion filed by the PN.

According to the PN, daily traffic congestions – both in the morning and afternoon – were the source of inconvenience for businesses, and was reducing competitiveness, increasing environment, social, health, logistical and mobility problems.

A recent study by the Institute for Climate Change and Sustainable Development, that tagged the cost of traffic in 2020 at €89 million for accidents, €15.3 million in air pollution costs, €51 million in climate change costs, and €151 million in wasted time due to traffic jams.

During a conference organised by EY, prominent businessmen urged the government to carry out proper studies on the causes of traffic congestion and what mitigation measures could be taken.

“How much money has this government spent on studies?” former Air Malta chairman Louis Farrugia had asked. He added that money spent on traffic studies was not money wasted.

According to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, the long-term solution to traffic remains introducing alternative means of transport – like underground tunnels – and increasing sea connectivity.

“This is not a new situation and we have to understand all the causes,” Muscat has told journalists, listing the increased number of people in employment, the investment in economy and the daily introduction of 40 new cars on Maltese roads among the causes.

Deputy prime minister Louis Grech however warns that addressing the issue also included a change in mentality.

“We can allocate as much funds as we want but nothing will work unless people decide to change their habits. Grants and incentives given will all be in vain if there is no uptake. This problem needs a profound discussion and not criticism scratching the surface.”

The PN has criticised budget 2016 as falling short of tackling the traffic problem.

To increase road network capacity, Transport Malta will be leading works at the Kappara Junction, implement smart technology and test tidal lane systems. It will also lead the coordination of a national cycling plan.

Transport Malta has teamed up with the highly popular Maltese Roads Traffic Updates to deliver information on ongoing road works directly to users.  The smart phone app - developed by vioside and originally available against a fee – is now being financed by Transport Malta and can be downloaded for free – www.maltesetraffic.com/app.php

Transport Malta is also preparing a car sharing strategy, through which the ‘Bum a Lift’ initiative is being supported.  Creators have developed a smart phone app targeting parents taking their children to school.  Parents will be matched through the app and will be able to take each other’s children to school.  The app is already available for parents of students attending St. Martin’s College.  

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