The Malta Independent 29 February 2024, Thursday
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PN says transport and infrastructure sector ‘filled with failures’, that mass transport is solution

Monday, 27 November 2023, 16:15 Last update: about 3 months ago

The PN on Monday said that the Transport, Infrastructure and Planning sectors in the country are "filled with failures," and in addressing the country's major traffic problem, mass transport must be the solution.

PN MP Adrian Delia said in a press conference that Transport Minister Aaron Farrugia has 'thrown out' criticism, fails to listen, and always looks to refer to and blame the others who came before him.

"Our criticism is based on facts, and the PN is involved in many discussions with stakeholders in the sectors, which are filled with failures and scandals," Delia said, mentioning traffic management, and scandals.

Delia said that the largest scandal, however, is that of the driving licenses. For months, almost all sectors spoke about the effects of the failures in this sector, he said.

He said that government has a negative record with regards to addressing these situations, naming the government's U-turn on e-scooters, where at first, they were open for everyone, and now it has been regulated. Delia mentioned the Y-plate sector, where government first opened the sector, then had to create legislation.

Delia said government keeps going round in circles as it is not capable of carrying out a proper public consultation.

On mass transport, Delia said that government spent hundreds of thousands on marketing for the metro, giving the impression that this was going to be something that government will start working on immediately. "Now, government said that the metro is on the back-burner," Delia said.

He said that the PN has drafted immediate, medium-term and long-term proposals for managing traffic, such as further expanding incentives for work from home, government entities providing services online, effective priority lanes and bus lanes, and AI assistant management solutions which are used abroad, but not in Malta, to help with parking.

Delia also said that the PN is proposing incentives for youths not to buy cars, or leave their cars. For the long-term, Delia said that there is the need for a change in the economic model to address the issue of an increasing population, which has rendered many services within the country's infrastructure as inadequately planned.

The solution is mass transport, Delia said.

PN MP Ryan Callus spoke about the situation weighing on the infrastructure, quoting an EY survey which said that 88% of foreign investors in Malta believe that the infrastructure is inadequate.

"This is a very big condemnation to the country's infrastructure and towards government. You cannot have a worse certificate than that. This can lead to investors currently investing in the country to decide to leave due to difficulties in the infrastructure," Callus said.

He said that government has brought some of the problems upon itself, as instead of increasing the budget allocated to infrastructure, it has decreased it by around 10% to 15%.

Addressing Minister Farrugia, Callus questioned where he is when the Qormi centre experiences traffic problems and congestion every day. Callus continued that it is also unacceptable for residential roads to take a year to be completed, condemning residents to living in dust.

"Infrastructure Malta is not being led the way it should be led," Callus said.

On the scandals, Callus said that not only are there incompetent drivers on the road due to the driving license scandal, but students have told him that there is a waiting time of up to four months for a learner to go for their practical driving exam.

Callus reiterated that if government does not immediately invest in mass transport, then traffic, congested roads and ineffective investments will continue.

He said that Infrastructure Malta suggested that people leave later in the day, which means coming late to work, or going late to doctor appointments, which is not a real solution.

"It is evident that in mass transport we have zero vision, a non-existent vision, and we will suffer at various levels. More traffic means more air pollution, leading to more health problems such as respiratory diseases and asthma, meaning our quality of life, health and mental health will fall back," Callus said.

He said that government has no ideas, and has said that mass transport is no longer a priority.

PN MP Stanley Zammit said that the density of the country is 15 times higher than Europe's average, and this negative effect is seen and felt by all, through inferior quality, higher prices, smaller bays and beaches, and unrecognisable towns and cities.

Zammit said that till today, the country has not had a carrying capacity study conducted, which he said would show how much development Malta could withstand, and what type it needs. Instead, government has cast aside planning and focused on growing the economy, while ignoring the quality of life, he said.

He said that government has changed the Planning Authority into a department for permits, and pointed out that life and the economy have drastically changed from when the local plans were drafted.

Zammit said that the PN has long insisted that government draws up a strategic plan for environment and development, and revise the development control policy guidelines, Annex 2, as well as the local plans.

He said that government is unjust for denying Malta an authority which truly plans. Zammit said that Prime Minister Robert Abela's government must carry responsibility, stop blaming defects from 17 years ago, stop hiding behind the PA and start the process to revise the policies and local plans.

Zammit said that government is befriending developers so that they can plan however they wish. He mentioning Nigret in Zurrieq, Qajjenza in Birzebbugia, Wied Ghomor, Wied Babu, Wied Znuber and others.

"Government has degraded the Environment and Resource Authority (ERA) and the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage and created an authority which breaks the law and goes against expert's opinion," Zammit said, mentioning the recent Ggantija case.

He reiterated that government was unjust with Malta and 20-year-old Jean Paul Sofia's parents by "wasting" nine months insisting that a public inquiry was not necessary. Zammit said that when recommendations are left on the shelf (referring to those published after the death of Miriam Pace) then the risk for more victims increases.

Zammit said that the PN has presented amendments during the process of the licensing of contractors to better the standards and good governance. He said that the PN has worked so that the skills card system does not stay on paper, and accused government of failing in the implementation of building codes, that the Chamber of Architects has started doing them itself.

Zammit said that the PN is working towards changing the economy into a stronger one, reducing dependency on increasing the population, and with a system of transparent incentives and promoting good governance, sustainable development and quality of life in Malta can improve.

Minister reacts

PN had failed in the transport and infrastructure sectors - minister

The PN had failed in the transport and infrastructure sectors, Transport Minister Aaron Farrugia has said.

Minister Farrugia said that the Opposition's remarks about transport and infrastructure came from a party which had failed in both sectors. He said that the Nationalist Party wants to place the burden on the people by stopping them from using their cars, by removing subsidies on fuel and by allegedly wanting to raise the license age for young people to 21 years.

Referring to the points that the PN made in its news conference on Monday afternoon, Farrugia said that the Opposition talked about infrastructure without mentioning that a "Nationalist government would invest a ridiculous average sum of €11m per year from national funds, when a Labour government has been investing an average of €100M per year for the last ten years".

He also made mention of the PN's remarks about public transport. He said that the PN was a "beacon of failure with Arriva" and that Malta had become the victim of a joke made by Boris Johnson who had said that he had offloaded the buses which would set fire one day and be fine the other to Malta. Farrugia added that in 2010, the at-the-time Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi had organised a task force which failed to provide any proposals to deal with the traffic that the government had lost control of.

"They spoke about Y-plates and the farce of a message given by Adrian Delia, who spent two months changing his position from morning to evening," the Transport Minister said.

He also referred to their remarks regarding e-scooters and the "government's decision to stop renting them in favour of more security". He added that the PN did not say whether or not a nationalist government would reintroduce them. "There is no stability and you don't know where you are with the PN," he remarked.

Farrugia said that the PN spoke about mass transport and "their solution of a trackless tram that passes through people's balconies". He said that this proposal, which they made two years ago, is something they are now ashamed to mention.

Remarking that the PN is cut off from all reality, he mentioned how the opposition also spoke about proposals which have already taken place or are currently being done, such as the change in service hours which he said is an exercise that the government has been working on since the 2023 budget. He added that the Opposition has already been invited to participate in negotiations on this matter.

On the topic of working from home, he said that it is something that is already being done for government workers and that there are fiscal schemes for private companies.

He said that traffic management with AI is also something that the government is currently implementing with the intelligent transport system through a multimillion investment. He added that new car parks were also already announced in the 2022 electoral manifesto and mentioned again in the last budget.

The Minister said that after the PN left the country on the edge of a cliff, it has now come forward to talk about sectors that it failed and about proposals that the current government is already implementing. In addition, he said that the PN has chosen to speak about "half-baked proposals" such as one that would stop the young and elderly from continuing to drive. He alleged that Adrian Delia has said that young people should begin driving at 21 years of age.

Farrugia concluded by saying that the Labour Party will continue to "invest unprecedentedly in the infrastructure of our country".


 


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