Aaron Farrugia takes Ian Borg’s baton: ‘Four or five controversial road projects in the pipeline’

Xtra on TVM News Plus | Transport Minister Aaron Farrugia says he will not shy away from controversial decisions but will consult to ensure projects are the most sustainable

Transport and Infrastructure Minister Aaron Farrugia says more road projects are necessary to cater for growth in the coming years
Transport and Infrastructure Minister Aaron Farrugia says more road projects are necessary to cater for growth in the coming years

A handful of large “controversial” road projects are in the pipeline, Aaron Farrugia said, promising more investment in infrastructure to meet the demands of economic growth.

The transport and infrastructure minister said the roads portfolio will continue to see the construction of underpasses and flyovers to “prepare the country for the 21st century”.

“We have four or five controversial projects that will be unveiled soon,” Farrugia said on TVM News Plus’ Xtra on Monday night.

He did not elaborate but at least two controversial projects in Msida and Qormi had been temporarily shelved before the election after objections from residents and environmental groups.

The Msida project would have seen a flyover connect the main square with Regional Road and the Qormi project included the construction of a flyover connecting the Mrieħel bypass with the industrial estate, taking up agricultural land in the area.

Farrugia was awarded the transport portfolio after the election, taking over from Ian Borg, who was appointed foreign minister.

Since 2017, the government has invested €100 million per year on road projects as part of a seven-year plan to pump €700 million into the road network. Farrugia has inherited that commitment, which still has a couple more years to run.

Major road junctions were constructed, including the Marsa junction, the Central Link and the Santa Lucia underpass. There are currently ongoing works in the two junctions outside the airport and the Mrieħel underpass connecting the Central Link to the bypass.

Some of these projects were controversial because of the loss of agricultural land but Farrugia insisted on Monday that he will not shy away from such decisions if they are inevitable.

“I will discuss with NGOs and stakeholders to create the most sustainable projects but at the end of the day I will be a minister who takes decisions even if they are controversial,” he said.

The minister tiptoed around the subject when asked how the government planned to wean people off their cars in a bid to reduce congestion, insisting that free public transport from October will be one such measure.

He also floated the possibility of having large regional public car parks with electric vans running shuttle services to the town centres.

“This requires a massive change in mentality but if we manage, it could free up our squares,” Farrugia said.

On the proposal for a metro that was unveiled in the last legislature, Farrugia said more studies had to be done to determine financial feasibility.

“The first studies showed a €6.4 billion spend, which is all the country’s debt since the Borg Olivier administrations of the 1960s… but come what may the country needs a mass transport system, whether it is a metro or something else,” Farrugia said, adding he will shortly be meeting the experts who carried out the initial studies.

But Farrugia insisted he is committed to have it done over the coming years.