The Malta Independent 3 March 2024, Sunday
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Friends of the Earth Malta condemns plans for new road linking Zabbar to Smart City

Tuesday, 13 February 2024, 10:27 Last update: about 18 days ago

Environmental NGO Friends of the Earth Malta has strongly condemned plans for a new road which would cut through agricultural land linking Zabbar to Smart City.

Last month, Transport Malta presented new plans for the creation of a new road linking Zabbar to Smart City, which involved mostly widening existing footpaths in agricultural land.

The NGO on Tuesday said that “it is incredulous that in a time of simultaneous climate and biodiversity crises, while farmers are protesting about the loss of agricultural land and food security remains a national challenge, such proposals get to see the daylight.”

The proposed road is set to take up a massive 80,000 m2 area of land, from Notre Dame Gate in Zabbar, along the Cottonera Lines, passing by the Capuchin Convent in Kalkara, on to Smart City.

The NGO enclosed a map shows the location of the proposed road and photos of the current situation: a quiet road and pathway lined by pine and carob trees and agricultural fields, along the walls of the Cottonera lines.

Friends of the Earth Malta’s Climate Campaign Coordinator Dr Suzanne Maas also criticised the proposal, stating that the proposed road would take up precious agricultural land and open spaces along the historic fortifications, while inducing further private car demand, increasing traffic in the area around Zabbar and Fgura, contributing to even more air and noise pollution, and higher carbon emissions from transport.

The NGO said that road connections to Smart City already exist, and instead, efforts to provide enhanced connectivity to Smart City should focus on promoting public and active transport.

“Greenwashing the proposed new road by including a cycle lane in the design is adding insult to injury, as the area today is a quiet road where people can safely walk, cycle and enjoy the open space,” it said.

The NGO proposed a list of solutions which can increase connectivity between Smart City and Malta’s main urban areas and the airport, as opposed to building yet another new road.

One proposal includes the introduction of a shuttle service between the ferry landing site in Bormla and Smart City, which was just upgraded, and is just five minutes away from Smart City.

The supposedly multimodal ferry landing site (funded by the Transport Malta project ‘SMITHs’ (Sustainable Multi-Intermodal Transport Hubs) could also include connections to other sustainable modes of transport, such as shared bikes and scooters to cover the final 2.5km stretch to Smart City (a 10 minute trip by (e-)bicycle or scooter), or people can take their own (e-)bike or scooter on the ferry, for free.

Another proposal is to introduce a shuttle service between Paola, one of the main public transport hubs in the South, to Smart City. The NGO said that Malta Public Transport has proposed a Bus Rapid Transit on their southern corridor, the busiest bus route on the island, which could connect onwards to Smart City if implemented.

The NGO proposed the creation of a new ferry connection between Valletta and Kalkara, with a landing site serving Esplora, Villa Bighi and Kalkara, and a connecting shuttle service to Smart City.

It also proposed that a large-scale development project such as Smart City should have a Green Travel Plan promoting sustainable mobility options, which should have been designed for sustainable transport connections from the start.

The NGO said that buses and the harbour ferry services are now offered for free for anyone with a Tallinja card.

“Why are we spending public funds on these services if we do not encourage people to actually use them? The above proposed alternatives would make this area more attractive and accessible by public transport,” the NGO said.

It said that the site of the proposed road should be enhanced as an open space and active mobility route, connecting the newly upgraded Park ta’ San Klement and Vjal Kottoner with its new pavement and cycle lane on one side, and Kalkara and Smart City on the other.

A cycle lane could also be added along the wide roads that already exist: Triq Santa Liberata, which passes by the convent in Kalkara, and Triq il-Missjoni Taljana towards Smart City, it said.

The NGO said that this should be an opportunity to not repeat the same mistakes and do things differently.

Friends of the Earth Malta urged authorities to plan for sustainable mobility connections, instead of inviting and creating more traffic, as well as to preserve and restore scenic pathways along natural and cultural heritage for people to enjoy.

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