The road to an integrated transport network

With a reliance on cars, a rising population and widescale development, creating a transport solution for Malta is a colossal endeavour. Here, the Planning Authority’s Ivan Fava explains why commitment to Malta’s strategic spatial vision could help refine the country’s transport system and stem traffic growth


Without comfortable access to employment and social and community facilities, a person’s quality of life takes a nosedive. An efficient national transport network is vital because our day-to-day activities depend on our ease of mobility. Whoever we are, whatever we do, our experience of getting from A to B creates a knock-on effect throughout our daily lives.

“Traffic in Malta is a hot topic,” says Ivan Fava, Strategic Unit Manager at the Planning Authority (PA). “In this regard, part of the PA’s role is to put forward a high-level strategic vision that facilitates a modal shift. In other words, to encourage a move away from Malta’s saturated means of transport – the private car – to new modes that will reduce traffic congestion.”

In 2015, the PA established key issues and objectives for Malta’s travel patterns in its Strategic Plan for Environment and Development (SPED), a holistic blueprint for Malta’s sustainability. The motivation was to craft an overview of objectives that, if appropriately fed into subsidiary legislation and local policies, would nurture Malta’s socio-economic growth while safeguarding its environment and quality of life.

“Malta’s high car dependency directly impacts our health and environment,” continues Mr Fava. “Besides deteriorating air quality through congestion and vehicle emissions, growth in travel has led to land being occupied by roads and parking – thereby affecting our cultural and natural heritage, including agricultural areas.”

Ivan Fava
Ivan Fava

As a tool to support sustainable development, the SPED offers a strategic direction for alleviating Malta’s travel difficulties, and it is available for every stakeholder – including members of the public – to use. Its objectives form a vision intended to be fleshed out in detail at the national, local and private level.

Three of the SPED’s thematic objectives target Malta’s travel patterns: firstly, to encourage a modal shift towards an integrated transport network while minimising adverse environmental effects; secondly, to facilitate public transport services and other green modes of travel; and, finally, to ensure the efficient operation of Malta’s harbours and airport while reducing negative environmental impacts.

“An integrated transport network refers to the availability of different modes of transport,” explains Mr Fava, “meaning that one might cycle or take a bus to a ferry terminal and then hop on the ferry to Sliema or Valletta to avoid using a private car. This is already feasible in some areas. However, to adequately diminish car dependency, such a system should be present throughout the country.

“We’ve already seen improvements via the introduction of dedicated bus and bicycle lanes, and park and ride facilities, but we need better traffic management and enhanced road safety. We also face the issue of connectivity because even if a project accommodates innovative travel solutions, how will they then link up with the rest of the country?”

Due to its small size, Malta will always face the problem of low economies of scale, especially in terms of alternative mass transport. “Other modes of travel may be desirable, but Government needs to ensure they are viable,” continues Mr Fava.

“We can’t forget that every action affects our natural surroundings. So, when talking about an underground system like a metro, how will that impact our environment and geology, and what will we do with the construction waste generated? We have to weigh the pros and cons to identify the route that will be the least damaging and most beneficial to society.”

As Mr Fava reflects on how a more integrated transport network can be realised, he asserts that developers and the private sector can already help with easing traffic congestion and improving air quality. “Development projects that create spaces for employment should introduce green travel plans, such as providing bicycle racks, on-site electric car chargers and collective transport for employees.”

“In the SPED, we encourage this modal shift, and as a strategic vision for the entire country. The document is there for everyone to use and implement. Importantly, through our public consultations, every stakeholder can also participate in the SPED’s revision now that the 5 year period has elapsed and the process has started. Action and engagement at all levels of society are crucial to ensure all voices are heard, so I encourage people to get involved and take initiative.”

Malta’s Strategic Plan for Environment and Development can be accessed via

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