The Malta Independent 20 October 2018, Saturday

Minister Ian Borg launches second reading of the Infrastructure Malta Agency bill

Tuesday, 15 May 2018, 21:12 Last update: about 6 months ago

Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects Ian Borg called a press conference before launching the second reading of the Bill on Infrastructure Malta Agency in Parliament.

Minister Borg said that the Labour Government's priority during the first legislature was to turn the economy around in order to improve the quality of life for Maltese and Gozitan families. He said that the government was successful, and today, Malta has one of the best European economies.

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"The time has come for us to take the next step - to take a substantial leap forward in the quality of infrastructure for our country as befits Maltese citizens", said the Minister, while reminding those present that this was a main electoral promise put forward by the Labour Partyahead of the 2017 election. After several months of work, Government is now officially implementing another step forward towards this pledge.

"We did not wait", said Minister Borg. He reminded those present of the completion of the Kappara Junction project, which had been started by Minister Joe Mizzi. 

The Ministry highlighted the methods being used to continue addressing the challenges of traffic and congestion, such as free public transport for youths, measures which promote the use of bicycles and necessary infrastructural changes which help this along. 

"On the other hand," said the Minister, "we need to remember that the challenges of traffic and congestions are large. For decades, our roads were left in an abandoned state. The responsibility for roads was passed on to local councils, without giving them the necessary funds to implement their responsibilities". The Minsiter said that the situation which local councils found themselves in was unsustainable, and the need was therefore felt to set up an agency specifically focused on our country's infrastructure. In 2017, the Government announced that there would be an unprecedented investment of €700 million across 700 years towards the improvement of the quality and safety of our roads.

Infrastructure Malta is the agency which will be responsible for the implementation of this plan. The agency will be responsible for the building, management, improvement and maintenance of arterial, residential and rural roads, as well as other public infrastructure in the Maltese islands.

The Minister said that local councils will find full support from this agency and the Ministry, and Infrastructure Malta will maintain continuous consultation with all local councils of localities where works are underway. "As is already being done with projects on main roads, local councils will also be involved in the planning of works and the agency will be considering councils' opinions and requests while keeping them around the discussion table so that this unprecedented investment can truly fulfil the aspirations and needs of the entire country," a statement read.

"The agency will be essential for the formation of a focused strategy. The improvement of the Maltese islands' road network is not simply an exercise in the allocation of funds to a number of contractors to implement works, but focused work on two binaries. While the Government's commitment to rebuild from scratch and repair existing roads will be honoured, the agency will also be establishing and implementing a long-term plan for the maintenance of the same roads, which will be adapted according to future needs. While everyone will be expecting the roads they use every day to be among the first to be done, the agency needs to look beyond this and consider the state the road is in, the country's needs, and the resources available."

Priority will be given to 160 residential roads which have never been addressed. These are roads that are currently lacking asphalt and on which people live and are made use of daily. Some of them have been in a bad state for a number of years.

"At the same time, an analysis on the state of the country's roads is underway, so that priority continues to be given to those which are most in need of attention. The Ministry has already taken steps which are translating into results, and is working on small-scale solutions which have large effects-such as those in Qormi, which have led to a reduction of 30% in journey time from this area. Another project near the airport and a similar one a few metres away in Luqa are also to be mentioned, as well as work which is ongoing on the roads which join these three projects, and which will be boosting the resultant positive effects."

"Work on the widening of the Marsa-Ħamrun Bypass is also ongoing-this a project which only required widening so that traffic can move more efficiently."

 "We are working with a spirit of continuous evaluation; such as in the case of small projects in Qormi and Gudja, where we understood the need to extend works to Luqa to achieve better results and remove another obstacle which hinders journeys in this area. But we did not stop there; in fact, the biggest infrastructural capital project our country has ever seen has also gone through and will continue going through this kind of scrutiny, so that the benefits of this investment continue increasing according to ever-changing needs", said Minister Borg. Here, he was speaking about the Santa Luċija tunnels project. The call for offers for contractors for this project will soon come to a close.

Infrastructure Malta is gradually taking up some of the responsibilities which used to be fall under the remit of the transport regulator-Transport Malta, local councils and other entities involved in road maintenance. Due to this, Transport Malta will be able to focus more intensely on its function as regulator, therefore focusing on aspects such as the management of road operations, the development and promotion of other alternative means of transport, and the enforcement of road rules and security measures.

"This will also permit local councils to gradually start using the funds which used to be dedicated to roads, towards other useful projects for the community. The employees of the Roads and Infrastructure Directorate within Transport Malta have joined Infrastructure Malta, to ensure that their experience is not lost."

 "One of our priorities will always be safety and peace of mind for road users", said the Minister.

"Efficiency is also a requirement", continued Minister Borg. He said that some of the most irritating things for drivers and residents during roadworks are delays and a lack of safety measures which reduce the risk of accidents, and damage to vehicles, nearby buildings and property. Infrastructure Malta will impose penalties, including financial ones, if stipulated goals towards avoiding delays are not reached.

"One of the changes which will come into force to reduce delays in project completion, is that contractors will be responsible for all necessary works in a particular road from the beginning until the end according to the requested specifications. This means that during planning stages, the agency will be speaking to the entities concerned, such as the Water Services Corporation and Enemalta plc to identify what requirements will be needed beforehand," the statement read.

"The agency will also be discussing new standards with the entities which have underground services, so that when they dig up roads, they layer them back with asphalt according to quality standards so that the road can retain a good state even after a number of years have passed."

 

 


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