19 January 2005

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Mgarr terminal completion postponed yet again
By Karl Schembri

The Mgarr terminal project has been postponed by yet another year, meaning that the project will have taken more than 11 years to finish under four consecutive administrations.
Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi triumphantly announced to an applauding Nationalist crowd in Gozo last Sunday that the terminal should be completed next year. He forgot to mention, however, that according to the last completion date he had announced a few months back, it should have been completed some time this year.
Entrusted to the Malta Maritime Authority, the project dates back to 1995 when the Nationalist government was planning to consolidate the Cirkewwa terminal and to cut down on idle hours due to choppy seas. But the idea soon grew to include a car park and passenger terminal in Cirkewwa and Mgarr equipped with separate ramps for passengers and vehicles and elevators and escalators.
At that time, the government had announced that the whole project had to be completed by September 2003, but since then the completion date has been changed at least twice.
“By 2005 we should be home and dry,” Malta Maritime Authority Chairman Marc Bonello had said in 2002.
Even the costs have changed considerably over time. The Mgarr terminal was initially supposed to cost Lm1 million, but over just a couple years the cost had soared to three times as much after it transpired that reinforcement works on reclaimed land proved to be more expensive than had been estimated.
Sources from the MMA add that all tenders related to the Cirkewwa and Mgarr terminals ended up costing more than the amounts stipulated in the contracts because of the contractors’ “ingeniously-fabricated contingencies” while works were in progress.
The original passenger terminal designs were also scrapped following public outrage over what would have been a ghastly block of offices ruining the Mgarr harbour’s picturesque landscape.
Plans were changed once again last year when Minister Censu Galea announced that discussions were underway to decide whether the project should be reduced.
The harbours project, which is estimated to cost a total of Lm13 million, has, so far, also involved the upgrading and extension of the existing quays at both harbours, extensive land reclamation, particularly at Cirkewwa for marshalling areas, and the building of a new quay at Cirkewwa. The project is to include passenger terminals at both harbours.
Galea also said that work on the semi-underground car park at Mgarr was also almost ready. This car park, he adds, had been practically imposed by on the MMA by MEPA, further raising the project’s overall cost.


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Editor: Saviour Balzan
The Malta Financial & Business Times, Newsworks Ltd, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann
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