Updated | [WATCH] Malta Public Transport adds 40 buses to its fleet

The new buses will be equipped with low-flooring, Wi-Fi, USB charging ports and increased baggage capacity, and will see the company invest €9 million 

Malta Public Transport will be adding 40 buses to their current fleet
Malta Public Transport will be adding 40 buses to their current fleet

Updated at 5.30pm with PN statement

Malta Public Transport has added 40 new buses to its fleet through a €9 million investment aimed at increasing its capacity and efficiency.

Addressing a press conference announcing the development, Transport Minister Ian Borg said the new buses would be operating an additional 69,000 trips every year.

“These new buses will continue to improve the efficiency of our public transport system,” Borg said, adding that the total number of buses would now be increasing to 435.

10 of the new buses will replace old buses, while the remaining 30 are set to be added to the current fleet.

All the new busses are equipped with low-flooring, Wi-Fi, USB charging ports and increased baggage capacity. Protective glass panelling between the driver and the passengers will also be increasing the driver’s safety, Borg said.

“We wanted to make sure that the new buses are up to date with the current standards, such as having such facilities makes the prospect of using public transport more appealing,” Borg said.

He said that while the Labour government had inherited a public transport system that was in need of reform, it had undergone significant improvements since then, with the number of passengers increasing each year.

“If we had to compare the number of passengers using the service to that in 2011, back then 90,000 passengers were using public transport daily, compared to today’s 150,000,” he said, adding that there had been a 61% increase in use over the period.  

“In 2018, we saw 53.4 million passengers using the service, compared to 2011’s 33.1 million, and this continues to motivate us in improving these services,” he said. 

Borg said that the government determined to continue making the use of public transport more appealing
Borg said that the government determined to continue making the use of public transport more appealing

The minister said that government would continue to implement measures aimed at incentivising people to use alternative modes of transport.

“While the free public transport scheme among young people has proved successful, we are looking at committing to our budget measure of extending the service to senior citizens,” he said.

The reason for prioritising youths aged between 14 to 20 when offering free public transport, before moving on to senior citizens, was that government wanted to motivate a shift in mentality among the younger generations, Borg said.

“In order to start fixing the traffic problem, we need to teach young people to use public transport, to use public transport on daily basis instead of choosing their personal car,” Borg said.

Rather than being expected to solve Malta’s traffic problems alone, the measure, he said, was part of a set of initiatives promoting public transport and ensuring that it operates efficiently.

Turning to the various road widening and infrastructural projects currently underway around the island, Borg said that this too was part of a holistic system aimed at improving connectivity and facilitating transport around the country.

 “Yes, we do need to continue implementing big projects like the Central Link and the Marsa junction, but we will keep working on making the use of public transport, like buses and ferries, more appealing to people,” Borg said.

PNincrease in bus fleet won't solve traffic issues

The increase in the amount of buses on the road won't solve anything unless the efficiency and punctuality of the public transport service improves, the Nationalist Party said in a statement. 

This new buses will likely get stuck in traffic, the PN said, with the amount of new cars being added on a daily basis on Maltese roads.

READ ALSO: Nearly 392,000 cars on Malta’s roads in June, up more than 3% in past year

"The amount of new private cars on the road is a clear sign that the Maltese people are not being served by the public transport despite government paying €30 million in subsidies per year. The only reason why the use of public transport has increased is because the number of foreigners in Malta has increased, foreigners who have to rely on public transport in their first years living in the country," the PN statement read.

It added that the government needed to make bolder decisions, such as invest in a mass transport system that could prove to be effective, efficient, punctual and eco-friendly.

The PN lamented the lack of a viable alternative, citing an NSO statistic that showed that only 0.8% of Malta's entire car fleet was electric or hybrid, amounting to just over 3,000 cars. 

"At a time when climate change is having such big repercussions on the lives of people, the government can't just enlarge the bus fleet and expect the traffic problem to fix itself. The Opposition urges the government to make a carbon neutral investment to incentivise the use of electric cars while investing in an efficient mass transport system," the PN said. 

More in National