Following Prime Minister Robert Abela’s recent pledge to table studies for a metro for public consultation, an architect has said the debate should also include a reassessment of the proposed Malta-Gozo car tunnel.
Konrad Xuereb and his firm KonceptX have drafted a detailed plan for a single metro line with 20 stations, stretching from Mosta to Birżebbuġa via the airport, and then upwards along the east coast and straight to Gozo via a future tunnel.
He told Lovin Malta that a metro will provide faster commutes than a tunnel, with people able to travel from Rabat, Gozo to the airport in half an hour.
His studies have also shown metro trips could be cheaper than a car tunnel toll, at €2 per trip per day, as well as options to buy cards for a duration of a day, week, month or year.
Moreover, unlike the tunnel proposes, the metro encourages people to shift away from private cars.
“It’s good news that the government has finally announced it intends to publish the metro study it commissioned a few years ago to encourage public debate,” Xuereb said.
“It’s a project of national importance and requires an engaged and apolitical public debate for the good for the country.”
“Whenever we’ve published information on our study, people have always seemed ready to shift from our current car-centric society to a mass transport system.”
“The government should be bold and say that once we’re looking at investing in a national mass transport system, it should reconsider its plans for a car tunnel between Malta and Gozo and use the tunnel funds on the metro instead.”
He said the Prime Minister’s recent statement could be an opportunity for the nation to rethink the viability of the tunnel, stating that it’s not too late for the government to change its plans.
In terms of funding, Xuereb has estimated that a Malta-Gozo metro will cost around €4 billion, which could be financed through a mix of EU funds, government bonds and public funds.
He predicts public funds would amount to €175 million per year, roughly the same amount Malta has been spending per annum on road widening projects over the past few years.
“We’re already spending millions every year on road widening projects, which are short-term measures that will only induce public demand for cars and create bottleneck problems somewhere along the line,” he said.
At a PL rally on Monday, Abela said the metro studies, which have been complete since at least February, will be put up for public discussions in the coming weeks.
“This metro system could revolutionise public transport, but the public must look at all factors, both positive and negative,” the Prime Minister said.
“We must discuss whether we need a metro, whether we are ready to start using mass transport instead of private cars, whether are ready for the inconveniences while the metro is being built, and above all whether we are ready to keep modernising our country.”
“The big question we must ask ourselves is what price our children’s children pay if we choose to do nothing?”
The government is also considering more rapid bus routes as an alternative to a metro system.
Do you think the metro should replace the Gozo-Malta car tunnel plans?