The Malta Independent 24 October 2021, Sunday

Without full disclosure, metro public consultation is useless - ADPD

Saturday, 9 October 2021, 11:17 Last update: about 14 days ago

When one considers all the known information, the metro proposal is not suitable, creates too many environmental problems and is a threat to both existing public spaces and our historical heritage, Carmel Cacopardo ADPD-The Green Party Chairperson, said Saturday.

Addressing a press conference next to the old railway station, Mark Zerafa, ADPD Deputy Chairperson and candidate for Birkirkara said that all changes to public transport should be respectful of the little public spaces we have. The government proposal for a Metro makes use of Ġnien l-Istazzjon as a station and as a result will develop part of this public garden.  This eliminates one of the locality's lungs. The introduction of mass transport facilities should improve the quality of life of our residents: it should not make it worse.

Mario Mallia, also Deputy Chairperson of the party as well as candidate for Birkirkara, said that mass transport proposals can function if they work in tandem with local and regional transport around each station.  Local and regional public transport in and around Birkirkara is very weak. It requires substantial investment to bring it up to scratch in order that it can adequately support a mass transport system with a Birkirkara station.  If this is not done the current traffic congestion will still be around for quite a long time.

Cacopardo said that traffic congestion is not the result of the number or dimension of roads but it is a reflection of the exponential increase in the number of cars on our roads. ADPD has emphasised many a time that the enormous expense involved in massive road infrastructure projects at Marsa, Kappara and Central Link are a waste of resources which will solve nothing at all. They have just shifted the problem from one zone to another.  Now, ARUP, government advisors are expressing similar opinions.

The effective solution addressing traffic congestion is the creation of alternatives to the use of private cars, aiming at their reduction as a result of a facilitated mobility.  This is the aim to be achieved by mass transport: helping people to travel short or long distances. Government consultants are proposing an underground Metro. There are however alternatives: Bus Rapid Transit, overland tram and an elevated metro.  All these have been set aside by government and its advisors.

The ARUP underground metro signifies millions of cubic metres of excavation waste, which, it is being hinted should go towards land reclamation. Malta was always very cautious and very rarely resorted to land reclamation.  We hope that after ruin on land as a result of overdevelopment, it is now not the turn of our marine environment to be ruined, using the Metro as an excuse.

Rock excavation for the metro tunnels will not be just a source of waste. It is also a potential danger to our historical heritage when excavating below, around or in the vicinity of our historical heritage in Valletta, Mosta, Balluta and elsewhere. Excavation is also proposed close to sites which are ecologically sensitive.   

We understand the ARUP’s conclusions are the result of studies carried out over a period of time.  It is essential that these studies are made public and subject to public scrutiny. Otherwise, this public consultation is a waste of time.  The studies are essential in order that we understand ARUP’s reasoning and motivation buttressing the underground Metro proposal. In addition, we need to understand the detailed reasons which ARUP is relying upon to justify its shooting down of the alternatives. Alternatives which do not generate huge amounts of waste, could be implemented in a shorter time frame and cost substantially less.

The choice which will be eventually made should not only reduce cars from our roads: it should do this with the minimum of environmental impacts and in full respect of our historical and ecological heritage.

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