Free school transport will see 6,300 fewer cars on the road – Muscat

The Prime Minister said that Malta was now a country where all students under the age of 20 could benefit from free transport and were no longer dependent on cars

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that the introduction of free school transport was part of a wider culture change away from car use
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that the introduction of free school transport was part of a wider culture change away from car use

All students in Malta under the age of 20 will be able to access free transport and no longer be dependent on private cars to get around, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said on Sunday morning.

Speaking during a phone interview one ONE radio, Muscat discussed his government’s plan to provide free school transport to all students in Malta.

An agreement was reached this week that will see the government pay school transport operators directly, with Muscat noting that this would see families save up to €700 a year on every student.

The move, he said, follows the introduction of a scheme in the last budget, for 16 to 20-year-olds to be able to use public transport for free.

“We are a country where, from the time you start school, till you are 20 you don’t need to be dependent on a car,” Muscat said, adding that the new scheme would see some 6,300 fewer cars on Malta’s roads. 

He said that this was an important part of a cultural change that will see people move away from car use and onto other modes of transport.

Having pledged to introduce free school transport before the last election, Muscat said he was satisfied with that fact that it was being implemented in a relatively short time and without disruptions to the system.

Besides reducing traffic on Maltese once school starts in a few weeks time, Muscat said that the service would also increase families’ disposable income.

Muscat thanked both Education minister Evarist Bartolo and Finance minister Edward Scicluna as well as the permanent secretaries in their ministries for seeing negotiations through and developing a system that would not require parents to fork out the money themselves before being refunded, as was originally planned.

The Prime Minister said that given that the project was a complex one, some “teething problems” could be expected. He said that the ministry had set up a website and a helpline to help parents who encounter problems with the service.

Muscat said a system would also be implemented that will allow parents to tracked their children’s location using a mobile app.

Turning to economic matters, Muscat said he was satisfied with the fact that Malta had registered the largest level economic growth in the EU in the second quarter of the year, noting that Malta’s GDP had exceeded €3 billion over a three-month period for the first time.

“Collectively everyone who works and invests in Malta, including foreign workers and investors, generated €3 billion,” Muscat said.

Finally Muscat referred to the story of a newborn baby that was abandoned on the streets in Bugibba last Friday, adding that there were both negative and positive points to the story.

“The positive point, and the one I judge our country on, is the fact that hundreds, if not thousands, of people came forward and offered to take the child in,” he said.

On the other hand, Muscat said he could not accept people passing judgment without knowing the facts of the case. He insisted that it was also unacceptable for the people to criticize the child’s mother.

He said that while he did not yet know any of the facts, singling out the mother was unacceptable.

“I don’t want to live in a society that targets the woman on every occasion and only puts the responsibility on her,” Muscat said.

Boys, he said, needed to understand that the responsibility for caring for a child is not the mother’s alone

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