[WATCH] Roads agency boss admits need for better communication with public

Infrastructure Malta CEO Frederick Azzopardi said the agency was working to ensure that the public understood better why certain works were necessary and how they would be being implemented

Infrastructure Malta CEO Frederick Azzopardi
Infrastructure Malta CEO Frederick Azzopardi

Infrastructure Malta CEO Frederick Azzopardi said on Thursday that the new roads agency was working to improve the way it communicated with the public about projects its undertakes.

Azzopardi was a guest on current affairs programme Xtra, where he admitted that not enough had been done to explain the need for certain projects to the public.

“I think the mistake we made was not explaining ourselves well,” Azzopardi said when asked about the recent controversy regarding trees to be uprooted from the road linking Attard and Rabat.

“The plans that made their way to the media indicated that a number of trees would be removed. Let’s assume they were the final plans, there were still other versions that included the removal of far more trees.”

On the subject of trees, Azzopardi said a clause was being introduced in contracts for works that obliged contractors to maintain trees they plant as part of infrastructural upgrades for a period of five years.

He insisted that Infrastructure Malta would be ensuring that this happens.

Turning to the issue of works being commenced without a permit, Azzopardi said that interventions in existing roads did not need one.

He said that work currently underway on the Tal-Balal road in San Gwann were urgently needed, while stressing that it was not the case that work had started without consultation and the necessary studies.  

He reassured viewers that the new road would include a proper footpath allowing people to get from one point to the other on foot.

Asked how decisions to expropriate private land were taken, Azzopardi said this only happened when there was no other option. He said it was not easy to take away people’s land, adding that he could understand those who questioned whether there was another alternative, but said that ultimately if there was no other option, and a road was needed for the common good, it couldn’t be helped.

Referring to the way in which road works were planned, Azzopardi said that unlike in the past authorities carried out in-depth analyses of traffic flows in Malta. This, he said, was done to determine which parts of the island were used more, and at what times, as well as to identify the main difficulties in the road network.

He said that while many believed that little thought went into which road works were prioritised, the truth was that such decisions were based on a detailed analysis of traffic flows.

Asked whether there was enough coordination and enough resources for work to be completed within the desired deadlines, Azzopardi said Infrastructure Malta was insisting that works be completed on time.

The Marsa junction, he said, had been broken down into a number of different jobs with clear deadlines.

“All contractors are engaged and they are almost at a stage where they are refusing work,” Azzopardi said, adding that work taking place around the clock.

PN Transport spokesperson Toni Bezzina said however that the latest traffic figures published by the NSO showed a worrying trend.

“If we are capable of creating a mix of public transport services that are feasible, affordable and efficient, people will adopt it,” Bezzina said.

Azzopardi said that while he agreed that there was a need for short, medium and long-term solutions, including more efficient mass transit systems, once also had to acknowledge that the Maltese population, as things stand, wants to drive a car.

“We can’t in the short and medium-term not address difficulties on the road,” he said, adding that addressing problems with cars also meant addressing problems faced by public transport.

“If we shorten travelling times by 40% it is not only for people driving their car but also for those using public transport.”

Watch the full episode in the link above