Students are complaining that waiting times and journey times to the University and Mater Dei have increased since the new public bus route changes came into effect.
November 22 and December 20 saw a large number of bus routes being altered, inclusive of their frequency. The Valetta bus terminal was extended into St James’ ditch, increasing the bus bays from 17 to 29.
Transport Minister Joe Mizzi was reported saying at a meeting with local council representatives that these changes would translate into the public transport system reaching more people and more frequently. He also said that the changes were a result of the extensive public consultations.
This has not been the case for a large number of university students who took to Facebook to complain about their daily struggles ever since the new routes came into effect.
One particularly justifiably disgruntled student wrote:
Mater Dei and University routes a ‘disaster’
“The current bus situation for people needing to go to Mater Dei or University (particularly from the south of Malta) is disastrous... Firstly, the decision to create a new bus terminus in the University area has created complete confusion. The area is now even more trafficked than before, with over 10 buses parked in the same area at most times...
“..Secondly, the 'new routes' which go to St. Luke's and Harmun before going to Mater Dei/University have done nothing but add problems: longer journeys, pointless stops which no one uses, traffic, and buses having to pass through narrow roads (which a few times ended up almost close to resulting in an accident). A journey which before took me a maximum of 40 minutes to get to University, now takes me at least an hour (and that's on a good day with only some traffic).”
Discrepancies between time displayed and actual departures
This newsroom visited the newly extended Valletta terminus earlier this week to gauge how the changes have progressed. Confusion and frustration could be seen on the faces of many passengers. An elderly British woman could be seen having an argument with a bus driver due to discrepancies with the times displayed on the sign of one particular bus stop and the actual times the bus was scheduled to leave from Valletta.
Choosing a random bus stop, The Malta Independent checked which time bus number 22 was due to leave from the sign on its designated bus stop. Malta Public Transport was then called to confirm that the times were indeed correct. In response, a polite representative informed us that the times have yet to be updated, and that bus number 22 was scheduled to leave at a different time then what appeared on the sign at the bus stop.
Customer care giving different answers
Two days later, customer care was again called to check if the times on the signs at the Valetta bus terminal had been updated. The representative on the other end of the line said that the times had been updated since the changes were implemented. When the representative was informed that this was not the case, and that on a previous phone-call to customer care a different representative had said otherwise, a report was promptly drawn up. On this point, the same student also wrote on Facebook:
“..Finally, even the drivers and staff themselves are becoming frustrated, which I completely understand. On one occasion I had a long 30 minute conversation with a bus driver during my journey, and he was just as annoyed at this situation as me, if not more so. Unfortunately as passengers we end up venting our anger on drivers, since they are the people we come into direct contact with. Unfortunately it’s the Ministry and the transport provider who are somehow not collaborating well with each other, and are creating more problems rather than fixing them efficiently.”
Many others chimed in expressing similar sentiments such as:
“There used to be around eight buses that go to University from Valletta and most of the time they would be full in the morning especially, now there are maybe 3... makes a student's life a lot easier!”
One concerned mother wrote, “My daughter is missing lectures because of these new routes. Total disgrace.”