The Malta Independent 23 August 2019, Friday

Surplus used to sustain free public service for young people – Ian Borg

Thursday, 25 April 2019, 16:00 Last update: about 5 months ago

Minister Ian Borg said that in 2018, the government used part of the budgetary surplus to finance €2.2 million in a scheme aimed to encourage young people to make use of public transport, so that more than 24,000 youths benefitted, making more than 5.2 million trips throughout that year.

“Hard work leads to positive results – the third consecutive surplus for our country means that we have a Government that has worked hard so that the people can benefit from the results of this work,” Borg said today.

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“We are here to speak about the results of the initiatives being taken in the public transport sector, results of this work. We are here because an important initiative that offers free public transport to our youths is already bearing fruit. Because this is a Government that shares our country’s success with the people, a Government that not only invests considerably in national projects, in infrastructural projects, but that year after year comes up with initiatives so that this success can be enjoyed by families, children, the elderly and persons with disability.”

He explained how the Government has a holistic plan to address the challenges related to the transport and infrastructure sectors and stressed the Government’s belief in an important move towards alternative means of transport. Borg said the free public transport initiative for 18-year-olds in 2017 had a positive response and was therefore extended in 2018 to include all those aged 16 to 20.

“We therefore continued investing so that this year, with an investment of over €3.3 million, we are giving free public transport to all those aged 14 to 20 and all full-time students 21 and over. Because, yes, we want to help youths, our students and our families. And in these first three months, more than 26,600 youths and students benefitted from this scheme, making 1.9 million trips. This is an increase of 17% over the same period last year when we had the scheme for those aged 16 to 20. This is all possible because in the first three months of this year, we invested more than we had before – an increase of 15% in investment which resulted in more than 15% of scheduled public transport trips to be made as part of this scheme,” said Minister Borg.

Borg explained how it is important for the Government that anyone using public transport has a comfortable experience, and therefore more initiatives are constantly being taken so that this service can continue improving. He stressed that these results, which show a substantial increase in usage, show that although there is more to be done, this Government has already done a lot towards the improvement of the service. Here the Minister referred to the record achieved in 2018, where more than 53.4 million passengers used the public transport service, a figure which means an increase of 61.3% when compared to 33.1 million passengers in 2011, 53.4 million passengers which mean an average of almost 150,000 passengers every day when compared to an average of a little more than 90,000 passengers every day in 2011.

The Minister also reminded those present of the tallinja card reform, and said that in 2018, 81% of public transport passengers used a travel card instead of purchasing a ticket onboard, a figure indicating repeated use of the service.

“And this year we are witnessing more growth – more than 12 million passengers using public transport in the first three months – an increase of 5.8% over the same period last year,” said the Minister. He said that today we have a fleet of 400 buses, all of which have free Wi-Fi for users, and stressed that the next challenge is continuing to increase service capacity.

“On the other hand, it is also good to note the positive aspects of the service, with data showing a reliability of 99%. We are not saying that the service is perfect. We are saying that we are doing our best to always improve the quality of service, and to also improve infrastructure related to this service, because here we are also investing to share success with the people. Like the investment in new bus shelters in a number of localities around Malta, aimed at improving safety and comfort for service users, with more than 30 installed to date. And we will keep on going,” said the Minister.

He announced that in the coming weeks works will commence at the bus terminus in St James Ditch, so that people who choose this service can have comfortable facilities with another investment of €400,000 to be enjoyed by the people.

He also reminded those present that these investments are complemented by investment in road infrastructure, projects which are helping roads to become more efficient even for this service which makes use of the same roads.

“Our work cannot stop here and will not stop here. Our work will continue, to ensure that our country’s successes, our country’s surplus, are enjoyed by the people. This work is aimed towards more and more benefits, towards more and more investment in the transport and infrastructure sector, among other sectors. Only in this way can we say that our country is a success – when the Maltese and Gozitan people can enjoy the successes coming from our work. So, we will keep planning, working and delivering, we will continue with our holistic work in this sector, we will continue creating incentives towards alternative and cleaner means, we will continue investing in road infrastructure towards more efficient and safer roads of the best quality,” concluded the Hon. Borg.

Also present for the activity was Member of Parliament Edward Zammit Lewis. He said, “Without a doubt, a great challenge which is the result of the economic growth this Government has managed to bring to our country so that we are now among the best in Europe, is our infrastructure, which includes roads and public transport. This Government kept its electoral promise. The Government is making an unprecedented investment in our roads, including residential roads and in the public transport service. Our youths are benefitting from free public transport and quality public transport, so we can continue investing in our best resource – human capital.”

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