“The choice is clear and the shift towards mass transit is a national priority,” said Dr Konrad Xuereb, the founding director of KonceptX, an architectural and structural engineering firm with offices in Malta and London.
Dr Xuereb’s comments come from an opinion piece he authored and was featured in the October edition of The Malta Business Observer.
He has captured the public’s imagination after proposing and drawing up plans for a local metro that would connect Malta’s most dense areas and include a permanent link between Malta and Gozo.
He noted a number of positive initiatives introduced in the 2020 Budget such as investment of funds “in pedestrian bridges”.
Dr Xuereb commended plans for connectivity by sea, remarking that “providing alternative transport modes is the way forward and the Government should persevere along these lines”.
Calling into question the proposed tunnel between Malta and Gozo for the use of private vehicles, Dr Xuereb said that such a tunnel would “entail long ramps at either end, causing irreparable damage to the environment, agricultural land and any as-yet undiscovered archaeology.”
He added that a private vehicle tunnel would inevitably result in bottlenecks at the exit points, increasing traffic. He questions the safety aspect, saying that should a fire or a crash take place inside this would leave to the tunnel being closed for some time. “This would in turn result in potential connectivity problems to Gozo if the ferry service goes out of business because of the car tunnel”.
He stressed that “a change in policy towards the implementation of a mass transit system is crucial and this should be addressed with urgency in the current and forthcoming Budgets.”
Elaborating on his plans, Dr Xuereb explained that a metro would provide “a fast and reliable connection between towns, connecting major residential, tourist and business zones. By helping to reduce the number of cars on the roads, such a system would make the current road-widening and car tunnel projects redundant”.
It is being envisioned that the metro would link Mosta, Lija/Attard/Balzan, Birkirkara, Mriehel, Qormi, Luqa airpoty, Birzebbuga, Zejtun, Paola, Valletta, Msida – including Mater Dei hospital and University), Sliema, St Julian’s, Pembroke, Paceville, St Paul’s Bay and Melliha, and would extend to Gozo. Shuttle buses would then connect the villages that do not fall under the metro’s proposed lines.
Dr Xuereb boldly wrote that “it would also allow GFozitans working or studying in Malta to return to GFozo on a daily basis – a mere 35 minutes journey from Valletta to Victoria, Gozo”.
He acknowledges the inconvenience that would be caused by building the metro, however Dr Xuereb argues that Malta “has reached a junction with two diverging tracks ahead: one based on short-term road-widening strategies with lasting environmental damage, and an other based on a longterm mass transit system that addresses the key challenges facing Malta, namely population growth, sustainable transport and environmental protection”.