Joe Mizzi: 'Reduce number of cars on road by providing alternative transport'

Joe Mizzi says measures aimed at reducing traffic problem will only be effective if people use alternative modes of transport

Host Saviour Balzan together with minister Joe Mizzi and shadow minister Marthese Portelli
Host Saviour Balzan together with minister Joe Mizzi and shadow minister Marthese Portelli

Transport minister Joe Mizzi has said that while it is important for the government to implement short and medium-term measures to address the traffic problem, these are unlikely to completely solve the problem.

Mizzi was speaking during Thursday’s edition of Xtra on TVM, where the current traffic problem was discussed. The minister told host Saviour Balzan that it was important to understand how the problem had developed over the years and to have a long-term plan to fix it.

He said the problems the country is currently facing are rooted in the fact that people are too attached to their car and have also lost faith in the public transport system.

"No matter how many short-term measures the government introduces, the only real solution was to find ways of reducing the number of cars on the roads by providing other means of transport," Mizzi argued.

Mizzi said that the government is committed to promoting the use of public transport and pointed to statistics showing that there has been a 60% increase in the use of public transport this year, as well as a 14.4% increase is trips that took place using public transport as opposed to private transport.

The importance of reducing people’s dependency on cars was also highlighted by Edward Mallia, a physicist and environmental activist, who said that without the introduction of measures to reduce cars from the roads, the problem will not go away.

“It is a fact that if you look for a solution by fixing infrastructure, it is only a short-term solution. The number of cars will continue to increase and the problem will eventually resurface,” said Mallia.

Environmentalist Edward Mallia
Environmentalist Edward Mallia

Shadow minister Marthese Portelli agreed that the traffic problem has been coming for a long time, however she said that it has exploded in the last three years, adding that traffic had increased at a rate far greater than the rate at which cars on the road have increased.

She also insisted that the government has not introduced enough short-term measures to fix the problem. She said that the Nationalist Party had published a long list of proposals back in May however the government had not taken any of them on board.

Short-term solutions

Mizzi said that the government has implemented a number of measures such as the tidal lane system and work being done on certain roundabouts and junctions.

Mizzi rubbished claims that the government had not introduced and short and medium-term traffic measures. He said that the introduction of tidal lanes as well as work being done on various junctions all constituted short and medium-term solutions. The minister also said that the government has also done a lot to improve coordination between different entities while roadworks are taking place.

Edric Micallef, an architect with Transport Malta said that the transport authority coordinates with entities such as local councils, Enemalta and the Water Services Corporation before and during the period when works are taking place.

Micallef also said that many road junctions in Malta contribute to the traffic problem. In many cases, he said, multiple lanes feed into a single roundabout and this creates a bottleneck. He said that TM was modifying junctions and has undertaken big projects, such as the Kappara junction, as well as smaller ones such as the modification made to the Lija roundabout to improve the situation.  

Transport Malta official Edric Micallef
Transport Malta official Edric Micallef

He also said that TM was currently installing smart traffic light systems that would be able to adjust traffic light timings according to the flow of traffic.

Asked by host Saviour Balzan, if human intervention worked improving the flow of traffic Micallef admitted that this was dependent on the individual, adding that some people understood how traffic works and were useful in this regard while others were less effective.  

Portelli said that the PN had suggested a number of short-term proposals such as that of providing free school transport across the board as well as having central rubbish collection points, which would speed up waste collection.



Speaking via telephone, former transport minister Jesmond Mugliett said that one of the biggest problems he faced as transport minister was that of obtaining the necessary budget for the ministry to be able to invest in good quality roads and infrastructure.

Mizzi said that one of the reasons the government felt it was necessary to have a strategy leading up to 2025 was in fact that of being able to cost all the measured that have been deemed necessary. In this way, he said, it is easier for the ministry of finance to allocate the necessary funds.



Also present in the studio was Sliema mayor Anthony Chircop who said that the local council faced a number of challenges in dealing with both traffic and parking.

He said that Sliema residents feel like they cannot leave their homes out of fear of not finding parking when they return. He said that this problem was only being made worse by the fact that the number of residential units in Sliema is increasing year after year. In addition to this he said that constant construction work was resulting in many parking spaces being lost for the duration of the works.

Sliema mayor Anthony Chircop
Sliema mayor Anthony Chircop

On the roads in general, he said that due to the fact that none of Sliema’s roads are considered to be arterial, all the roads fall under the responsibility of the council which does not have the necessary funding to carry out the necessary works on all of them.


Long-term solutions

Speaking on the phone, entrepreneur Anglu Xuered, who recently published his own set of proposals for dealing with traffic – said that the country needed to think outside the box on transport and proposed the introduction of a monorail system.

Portelli agreed that an ambitious project is necessary and said that the PN had proposed the introduction of a tram or light train system.

The minister said that Transport Malta had identified and was exploring a number of potential transport alternatives.

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