The Malta Independent 25 March 2019, Monday

Studies need to be concluded before Gozo tunnel permits are issued - Infrastructure Malta

Jeremy Micallef Tuesday, 25 December 2018, 10:00 Last update: about 4 months ago

Archaeological, landscape, ecological and agricultural surveys of the general areas of the potential tunnel portals and access roads need to be concluded and presented to the relevant authorities before the project’s development permits are issued, a spokesperson for Infrastructure Malta has told this newsroom.

Questions were sent to Infrastructure Malta following a story published by this newspaper highlighting comments by archaeologist Keith Buhagiar, who warned that the excavation of the tunnel entrance on the Malta-side portal in the hamlet of L-Imbordin will destroy troglodyte dwellings dating back to the late medieval period, fertile agricultural land and other archaeological culturallyrelevant remains.

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“Experts with extensive experience in their respective fields of study, and approved by the relevant authorities, are conducting these independent studies to identify the most sustainable and safest excavation route and the best possible implementation methods, and ensure that this project is successfully completed,” Infrastructure Malta said.

Just last month, geologist Peter Gatt warned that there are problems both in terms of the number of faults and large displacements, and also in the stratigraphy of the rock composition between Malta and Gozo.

Gatt went as far as to warn that “problematic geology between Malta and Gozo” will cost lives during the construction phase.

When queried on the concerns, Infrastructure Malta said that the team of Maltese and international experts conducting the necessary are “fully aware of the geological characteristics of the rock formation in the area where the tunnel will be excavated”. They said that such factors have been encountered and dealt with in hundreds of tunnelling projects worldwide.

The idea of a permanent link between Malta and Gozo has been spoken about by both major political parties for many years, and originally there was disagreement - where the PN wanted a tunnel and the PL wanted a bridge. Both parties now seem to have settled on the idea of a tunnel.

Back in March 2017, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that the government was committed on delivering the promise with regards to the tunnel, as a permanent link between Malta and Gozo.

Muscat had said that this project will take time as a lot of studies need to be carried out before works actually start. In May, Muscat had also said that the tunnel could be operational within seven or eight years.

During the budget speech, last month, it was announced that geological studies for the zone had been finalised and will form the basis for the design of the tunnel.

Over the last weeks, the result of these studies has been discussed with several experts, entities and the concerned authorities and was now being finalised.

Environmental impact assessments required for development permits of such a large project are also being done. Topographic surveys of the zones where the portals of the tunnels are being proposed in Malta and Gozo are being carried out.

Other economic studies are underway which are necessary to ensure that this new infrastructure will be used in the most sustainable manner.

Minister for Transport Ian Borg recently said that an international call for proposals for the construction of the Malta-Gozo tunnel will be issued in six months' time.

 

 

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