A Maltese architect has urged the government to replace its plans for a car tunnel between Malta and Gozo with a metro tunnel connecting the two islands, as an extension of a national metro system.
Konrad Xuereb, who has been lobbying for a metro for a while, said the government still has ample time to revert its decision to construct a car tunnel despite having issued a pre-qualification questionnaire for a Malta-Gozo tunnel, which four bidders have qualified for.
“This PQQ may give the perception that the government’s decision on this matter is done and dusted, with no way of altering its course,” Xuereb wrote in a study. “However, there is still ample time to revert this decision so that a physical link to Gozo, if it is to be done, would only accommodate a metro tunnel as an extension of a national metro system.”
“This argument is enhanced by the fact that most of the studies carried out to date by the government for a car tunnel between Malta and Gozo would be of relevance if said tunnel would accommodate a metro instead of cars.”
Xuereb, who has presented detailed plans for a Maltese metro, said the diameter of a metro tunnel would be nearly the same as that for a car tunnel, and the alignment of the undersea tunnel between Malta and Gozo would be nearly the same too.
“The government has also publicly stated in the past months that it has commissioned studies for a metro but that this would serve the inner harbour regions in Malta only,” he wrote. “It is high time that the government re-evaluates this position so that a proposed metro would connect the main residential, tourist and business zones in Malta, and extend to Gozo.”
“This would then negate the need of a car tunnel between Malta and Gozo. For the economy and quality of life to keep on thriving in decades to come, Malta urgently needs to invest in vital mass transit infrastructural projects to accommodate mass public transport systems.”
“A Malta metro that extends to Gozo ticks all the right boxes. A car tunnel to Gozo does not fit the bill. This is the most urgent decision to be taken for Malta’s future. A combination of strong leadership and long-term vision is paramount to implement such vital infrastructural mass transit projects.”
What is Xuereb proposing?
A Maltese metro may sound like a pie in the sky idea for many, but Xuereb has invested a lot of time and effort in proposing a detailed plan for such a system which would be fully functional by 2035.
Xuereb’s plan is for a metro with three routes – one connecting Mellieħa to Gozo, another connecting Mellieħa to Birżebbuġa, and a final one connecting St Paul’s Bay to Malta International Airport.
It envisages 20 stations and 40 trains, at an estimated total cost of €4 billion, which could be financed through EU funds, government bonds and public funds.
He said 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.
As for concerns that Malta is too small for a metro to be financially viable, Xuereb noted that similar systems are operating in Rennes, Lausanne, Catania and Brescia, European cities with smaller populations than ours.
“Malta has reached a fork with two diverging paths ahead,” he wrote. “One [is] based on short-term road widening strategies with lasting environmental damage – a car tunnel between Malta and Gozo would form part of this dead-end vision.”
“Another path [is] based on a long-term mass transit system that addresses the key challenges facing Malta, namely population growth, sustainable transport and environmental protection – this would involve a metro tunnel linking Malta to Gozo as part of a national underground system.”
Should Malta change its plans for a car tunnel to Gozo in favour of a metro system?