The Malta Independent 8 December 2021, Wednesday

TMID Editorial: Transport - Gozo, the tunnel, and the metro

Monday, 1 November 2021, 09:54 Last update: about 2 months ago

Two of the most expensive, and most discussed, capital projects of this contemporary era concern Malta’s road and transport infrastructure.

On the one hand, we have the Gozo tunnel – a project mentioned in the electoral manifestos of both the PL and the PN in 2017, and one which would create a permanent link between Malta and Gozo.

The tunnel which is being planned by the government is a two-lane (one either way) tunnel which would cater solely for cars.

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On the other hand, we have the recently announced metro – a 6.3 billion project which would create an underground rail system catering for, according to the released studies, most of Malta.

The iteration presented when the project was announced shows that the metro line is not slated to pass through Gozo – although Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri said this weekend, when asked by The Malta Independent on Sunday, did not exclude that the final plans for the metro could include a connection to Gozo.

It should be noted that the studies drafted up in coming up with the proposal for the metro indicate that for the connection to Gozo to make sense financially, the island’s population would have to increase by around 50,000 people – a prospect which, while most seedy construction developers would salivate at, is not amongst the most ideal.

The Gozo debate when it comes to both these projects is one which, however, could be a defining one in determining the island’s transport future.

On the one hand, a tunnel would only increase vehicular traffic – and not by a small margin – on the island, whereas a mass public transport system backed up by an efficient bus service would, in theory, reduce the reliance on cars and still make the commute for Gozitans who work in Malta but still wish to live in Gozo easier.

The key fact to take note of here however is this: the proposed Malta to Gozo tunnel does not take into consideration the possibility of a mass transport system, and would not possess the infrastructure to incorporate it in at a future date.

This is a fact which betrays a certain disjointedness in the government’s transport planning.

On the one hand, the government is promoting the metro as a mass transport system which would ultimately help reduce the number of cars on Malta’s roads.  On the other hand, the government continues to promote the tunnel (and insist that it will happen, as Camilleri did in his interview with this newspaper) – an infrastructural project which will only increase the number of cars in Gozo.

Taking this and adding the fact that the government wants Gozo to be the “pioneer” in becoming carbon-neutral through a mix of widespread adoption of electric cards, remote working, and clean energy – the line of thinking for Gozo’s transport sector is somewhat baffling.

Increasing the number of cars going to and from the island will certainly not help in reaching this goal.

This is not to say that this newspaper is advocating for a metro line to – by force – include a connection to Gozo.  As with everything, there are pros and cons to everything.

However, the notion that a metro for Gozo has not been taken off the table coupled with the fact that the proposed Malta to Gozo tunnel will not include a provision for the said metro betrays a lack of long-term planning in the transport sector on this point.

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