The Malta Independent 9 December 2019, Monday

TMID Editorial - Central Link: No possible alternatives?

Monday, 22 July 2019, 10:11 Last update: about 6 months ago

The highly controversial Central Link project was approved by the Planning Authority Board last week, despite many... many objections by residents from Attard.

While some residents of the locality were in favour, it was clear that others had serious concerns.

One argument made was that, effectively, over 1,000 residents would end up living in a centre strip between two main roads as a result of this project, and that the fumes generated would be a detriment to all of their health.

Some during the meeting questioned why different options were not considered more seriously, such as the construction of a tunnel, with Infrastructure Malta Head Frederick Azzopardi arguing that this would only resolve traffic issues from point A to point B, but would not deal with traffic from side areas etc.

Government has stated time and time again that it will reduce traffic flows, and has pushed for the success of the public transport sector, yet in their predictions regarding traffic flow on the current road, a constant traffic increase was used in their predictions. The Infrastructure Malta Head had argued that he needs to always consider the worst possible scenario.

Many, countering this, argued that studies abroad prove that road-widening just results in more car-use. The government’s plan to reduce traffic is, at best, a temporary one. Widening roads will temporarily alleviate traffic in areas, but will do nothing in the medium term, as if cars continue to increase, then those roads would need to be widened yet again. Such traffic creates harmful emissions and will increase respiratory issues.

Widening roads can also work in some areas. What about the traffic-congestion nightmare that is Sliema and St Julian’s? What about Rabat?

Alternative modes of transport are needed. Buses are clearly not enough to get the job done. The government has not taken bicycle lanes seriously, as is clearly obvious on tal-Balal road, where the lanes are not only confusing for cyclists, but also for motorists. Indeed these lanes are not even continuous along the road.

Indeed there are issues with the bicycle network along the proposed Central Link also, with a Bicycle Advocacy Group representative arguing that the network is basic at best, highlighting that at one instance the lane ends at a wall, starting again a bit further down the road.

There were proposals in the past for a mixed underground-overground metro like system, which should perhaps be further studied. Although the government has already started and in some cases completed road works in areas where this would have been useful, meaning that if we want to consider this further down the line, they would need to likely again dig and construct on them.

If the government does not sit down and seriously begin to place the peoples’ health at the centre of traffic policy, if it doesn’t realise that a stronger push for measures that will passively reduce cars on the road are needed, then air quality and traffic issues will persist, perhaps dying down for a few years before flaring up again.

One very surprising event during the meeting was when Head of the Environment and Resources Authority Victor Asciak voted in favour of the project, despite it taking up more than 45,000 square metres of agricultural land.

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