The Malta Independent 7 June 2023, Wednesday
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TMID Editorial: One car grinds Malta to a halt

Wednesday, 22 March 2023, 10:40 Last update: about 4 months ago

Someone wrote on the social media that he was unsure whether he would be arriving home for Christmas, and so was taking the opportunity to pass on his greetings to his family and friends.

Jokes and hyperboles apart, what happened last Monday afternoon once again exposed Malta’s fragility when it comes to the road network.

A car that broke down and caught fire in Santa Venera caused traffic chaos. We’re not saying it was unprecedented, because it has happened before that a single on the main road network brought Malta to a standstill. And we are sure that it will not be the last.

That the accident happened at a time when people were starting to leave work did not help. The traffic jam that ensued – both for people wanting to go south and the others who wanted to go north – was frustrating. Drivers were moving inch by inch, not knowing when they would finally overcome the obstacles and proceed with their journey. Those who tried to take a different route found themselves blocked too.

The way the traffic was re-routed by the authorities also left much to be desired. It showed that there was no contingency plan at the ready, and decisions that were taken ended up congesting traffic even more. Maybe, next time, we would have learnt the lesson from what happened on Monday.

While all the mayhem was taking place in the Santa Venera area – but not only, as the traffic was jammed all the way back to Marsa on one side and Tal-Qroqq on the other – the minister responsible for transport, Aaron Farrugia, was pompously opening the Mriehel underpass.

It was not the first time that Farrugia told us the Mriehel underpass was taking in traffic. It happened last October too, when an event was held to say that the lanes had been opened to traffic. That time, we were told that 83% of the project had been completed. On Monday, apparently, we reached 100%.

Last Monday, the minister told us that he looks forward to the time when the project next to the airport is completed and, following that, work on the Msida Creek will start.

All drivers will look forward to that too, but all of them know that it will take one single accident to stop traffic in Malta, simply because over the years there has been no planning for such circumstances. All our roads are built with no leeway for when something happens, as what happened on Monday, and as what happened at other times.

In the meantime, the number of cars on the road is on the rise and, as protestors last Saturday pointed out, the “transport model being pushed by past and current authorities prioritises private cars at the expense of guaranteeing safe and reliable access to mobility for everyone.” They mentioned an “illogical car-centric transport system”, and all this results in “constant traffic and congestion problems”.

It is ironic that, last Monday, World Happiness Day was being celebrated, with Malta placing 37th. We would have probably been further down the list if the survey had been carried out last Monday afternoon.

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