Reducing the number of cars on
Traffic jams are becoming more commonplace in Malta, they last longer
and traffic rage is increasing. The nightmare of static traffic looms
large and with more and more cars on the road we may get there sooner
than we think.
Malta has one of the highest rates of car ownership in Europe. There
are over 260,000 vehicles on Maltese roads increasing by some 7,000
per year. There are more cars per person in the Maltese islands than
in any other country in Europe, except for Germany and Italy. One per
cent of all households in Malta have five cars or more.
Car owners would all be pleased to see less cars on the road and this
can be achieved in one of two ways: restricting car use; increasing
the use of public transport.
The first option would not go down at all well with car owners. It may,
however, have to be seriously considered and MEPA transport officials
have already suggested some restrictions would have to come into force
in the coming years.
Improving public transport has long been clamoured for, but improvements
have been slow and bus usage continues to decline. The government is
committed to improve public transport and at the last Earth Summit at
Johannesburg made a commitment to halt the decline of bus use by 2005.
The ultimate objective of the government plan is to bring about a shift
in transport use from private road transport to public passenger transport,
walking and cycling, so that the share of private road transport in
2010 is no greater than in 2002.
Among the measures being considered are better bus routing and a night
service as well as the establishment of controlled parking zones.
The measures in the government plan are probably not ambitious enough,
but if the plan is followed through at least a start would have been
The Public Transport Association has ideas of its own as to how the
service can be improved. Contacted by The Malta Financial and Business
Times, Victor Spiteri, president of the Public Transport Authority,
said that in the near future weekly and monthly bus tickets will be
introduced at reasonable prices for those that do not use the more expensive
On 5 May the installation of ticket checking machines and a course for
bus drivers commenced and these machines are expected to be up and running
"within a few months."
The bus service still remains unreliable and in many areas no timetables
are affixed indicating when buses should pass.
The responsibility for affixing signs lies with the Local Councils,
but not only are schedules not affixed, but when, because of road works,
certain bus routes, or parts of bus routes are temporarily suspended,
no notices are stuck to advise commuters who wait for buses that never
New low floor buses are in the process of being purchased and Spiteri
told The Malta Financial and Business Times the ATP is "working
with the Malta Tourism Authority and the Transport Authority and in
July is going to send 10 bus owners for a fifteen day course regarding
transport system in the UK, so that afterwards we can use these 10 bus
owners to brief the rest.
"In a few weeks time we are going to introduce a system of heritage
routes around the island and we are also working on a different night
service, especially to the places of entertainment on the island. We
are also prepared to invest in the new system of park and ride schemes.
The bus drivers are also lobbying for improvements and Spiteri said
it is their wish to have: "Bus lanes for bus
corridors, so that we can make our service more efficient. Newly built
bus termini around the island with facilities such as restrooms, toilets
and shower rooms especially now that we have joined the EU."
Spiteri called for greater consultation with the ATP "so that we
can eliminate plenty of complaints, especially from the public."