The Malta Independent 25 June 2024, Tuesday
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Ghadira project will make area safer for visitors, Transport Minister says

Kevin Schembri Orland Monday, 5 June 2023, 08:43 Last update: about 2 years ago

Transport and Infrastructure Minister Aaron Farrugia has said that the Ghadira project will help families avoid the danger of having to cross two busy roads whenever visiting the area.

The project in Triq il-Marfa, the main and only artery connecting the Gozo ferry terminal to the rest of Malta, commonly known as the Għadira Road, is expected to be ready for the summer months, with the finishing touches to continue at the end of summer and be completed next year.

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Minister Farrugia said that many a time people would, in the past, find parking on the outer side, on the side of the Danish Village. They would need to cross the road there, perhaps some crossing blindly, and some drivers speeding, he added. "There are two roads to cross. Now, through the project, cars will all park on the side of the bay," he said.

The minister was answering questions related to roadworks posed by this newsroom during an interview. 

He said that Għadira is an area where every government tried to avoid conducting works for many years. "There is a reason for this, as once you dig up the road, it continues to collapse."

"So there were delays in the project, but work is ongoing, and the project will give us many results."

He said that parking spaces will not really be reduced, due to the recently done up car park as well as fishbone parking that will be created on the side of the bay. With regards to parking on the bay side, "cars will park fishbone, meaning that more cars will fit. This way we are avoiding the danger that every family passed through whenever going to that area."

Recently there was an incident at the Luqa junction project, where tourists had to walk through the roadworks to reach the airport as buses were forced to take alternative routes due to unannounced works. Given this, as well as the Għadira work delays as examples, the minister was asked whether there needs to be better planning when it comes to road transport projects.

"Yes, but let me give you some background. The airport project is enormous, and nobody had the courage to do it."

“The easiest thing for a minister would have been not to do it, as there would be delays and continuous inconvenience for the people who live there.”

“People who live in Zurrieq, Kirkop, Luqa all say they have been in a nightmare for two years,” he said, “so not doing it would have been the easiest thing.”

“The second easiest thing would have been to close down the area and people would have to pass from elsewhere. But the authorities decided to allow people to pass through even while working on the project," opening one part while working on another, then shifting and shifting as works continued, he said. He added that this results in constantly changing road signs.

“MEP Alfred Sant is one of those vocal about the way the airport project occurred. He’s not always right, but he is right on a number of occasions. If he tells me that the signs changed a million times, I'd say yes. But the other option would be to close the whole project area and have people pass from elsewhere (...) however that would mean a much greater inconvenience."

He said that if there's a live construction site for two years, routes and signs change all the time. "The lighting was also not as strong as one would have wanted, but what are you going to do, change the street lights every two weeks?"

“Can we do things better? Definitely yes. Can they be better planned? Yes. But if you're allowing people to drive through a construction site, it is not the best thing, but it’s alleviating a bit of the problem.”

He said that there were delays in the project, “but they are understandable. There were delays after major archaeological finds near the airport, and they had to go back to the drawing board to pass the road from elsewhere.”

"Did they take long? Yes, but the architects had to do their work." There were also delays in deliveries of steel blankets from Spain due to Covid, he said.

“Then there would be people who say they didn’t see workers working. If they were working in the tunnel then you definitely won’t see them. There were those who said that works should be done at night. Work happens at night, but not all of it. Experts themselves tell you that certain works aren't done at night as you'd need to redo everything again in the morning.”

“Every project will have some form of delay. If it is the contractor's fault, they need to pay and do their job, if they are delays like I mentioned, then they are delays because of such reasons.”

He explained that the airport project is divided in two, the airport intersection and kirkop tunnel, and the Luqa part. “The airport part is all open and now work is ongoing in the Luqa part. Obviously they are connected.”

As for the photos where tourists were seen walking through the road works, "Malta Public Transport wasn't even informed that certain roads were to close. I have a meeting with the project contractors and I'm going to speak to them, the country can't do these things where tourists and Maltese going to the airport are stopped 3km away as they can't enter, and nobody informed them. There needs to be responsibility. I have no problem meeting them. We are giving them a lot of work but they have to give us respect in return."

The first part of the interview was published in the Malta Independent on Sunday 

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