Gozo tunnel may not cater for rapid mass transit system

The Transport Ministry has hinted that it would be impossible to integrate it into a national underground system when it excluded restricting the proposed tunnel linking Gozo to Malta to a public transport system

The ministry confirmed that the feasibility of a mass rapid transit system was being analysed through other ongoing studies that “are not linked to the (Gozo) tunnel project”
The ministry confirmed that the feasibility of a mass rapid transit system was being analysed through other ongoing studies that “are not linked to the (Gozo) tunnel project”

The Transport Ministry has excluded restricting the proposed tunnel linking Gozo to Malta to a public transport system, hinting that it would be impossible to integrate it into a national underground system.

Restricting the Gozo tunnel to public transport only is “not a viable solution to the current difficulties encountered by residents and businesses in Gozo”, a spokesperson for Transport Minister Ian Borg said in reply to questions by MaltaToday.

MaltaToday asked the ministry whether current studies are assessing the possibility of integrating the Gozo tunnel into a rapid mass transit system catering for the needs of the entire country, and whether studies are assessing the possibility of restricting the tunnel to public transport.

Moreover, although the proposed design of the tunnel will include additional space for emergency access and future developments, “this may not necessarily cater for mass rapid transit systems, which would require different structural specifications depending on the type of technology adopted”, the spokesperson replied.

The ministry confirmed that the feasibility of a mass rapid transit system was being analysed through other ongoing studies that “are not linked to the (Gozo) tunnel project”.

But the ongoing studies in relation to the Malta-Gozo tunnel are still considering “the current and future transport, economic and social developments of Gozo.”

Current studies including the Environmental Impact Study are meant to identify the “most sustainable and safest excavation route and the best possible implementation methods, and ensure that this project is successfully completed,” the ministry said.

Apart from growing controversy on the tunnel’s environmental impact on the scenic Pwales area where the entrance to the tunnel is being proposed, doubts have also been raised on how the project integrates with the country’s national infrastructure.

In a recent article penned in the Times of Malta, University of Malta pro rector Godfrey Baldacchino asked: “will the Gozo-Malta tunnel serve to appease private vehicle drivers; or provide the justification to launch an underground metro network?”

He also observed that Gozitans travelling to Malta will still be at the l-Imbordin exit when they exit the tunnel. “I doubt whether many of them would consider this hamlet as their final destination. For most, they are still facing logjam on our beleaguered road network, to which we continue adding a net 1,000 vehicles a month.”

Baldacchino called on the government to consider a longer-term plan, “that of an underground mass rapid transit system that would not just connect Gozo to Malta, but Malta to itself as well”, which would take most of the pressure off public transport, which handled some 50 million passenger trips in 2018.

“We have hardly had any debate about whether or not to have a fixed link between Malta and Gozo. The tunnel link is happening. But we should at least discuss what kind of mobility we wish any tunnel to serve,” Baldacchino concluded.

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