At every opportunity, the Government embarks on a self-praise exercise that is having the opposite effect. The Transport Ministry, for which Austin Gatt and two new PN candidates are responsible, claims credit, on the first anniversary of the Arriva bus service, for what it terms an all round improvement in the transport sector.
Less than a year ago, Minister Gatt said that he was baffled why he should he blamed for any shortcomings on the part of Arriva. To an opportunistic Austin Gatt – whenever there is anyone to blame it is not him; whenever there is an opportunity for claiming some sort of success it is thanks to him and his government.
Arriva have come a long way in their first year. The company, in line with government practices of quoting selective statistics, mentions the number of kilometres, the number of routes, both old and new, as well as the fact that 187 of their buses are approximately one year old. The government echoes the call for statistics by giving figures for the increased number of passengers; the number of persons employed and the amount of fines the Ministry has imposed on Arriva this past year. How does such a success story attract so many fines?
However, the funniest news that Austin Gatt’s Ministry gives in its statement is the number of stops that Arriva makes on a daily basis. One wonders what the news value of such a statistic is. It is certainly not an important feature for the customer. The frequency and the broken promises are of far greater concern to the paying public.
Neither the Transport Ministry nor Arriva have given an explanation about the thirty-five percent (35%) of the fleet that is over one year old. The statements do not mention the 60 bendy buses that were scrapped from another EU country. They do not mention that a substantial part of the fleet, which represents some of the Maltese busses scrapped after the government forked out something in the range of €52 million as a subsidy, is around five years old.
GonziPN claims that the opposition does not mention that Arriva buses conform to Euro V specifications in fuel emissions. But the Ministry fails to mention that a big number of the buses were equipped with a Euro III engine and converted to obtain a Euro V certificate; something which is disputable by technical personnel. The Ministry also fails to mention that the state of our roads is such that the use of the bendy buses is creating congestion and thereby rendering the benefits of the Euro V engine ineffective.
The problems with GonziPN keep recurring. The government is not concerned that the public transport users were given the wrong end of the stick for a long time. Rather than apologising for the errors that the Transport Ministry was responsible for at the beginning, the Government would have us believe that it was responsible for the improvement when it was originally directly at fault in establishing the new route network. In fact, Arriva had issued a statement to this effect.
GonziPN keeps forcing statistics down our throats but does not even have the decency to present the full facts on any topic. This propaganda, substantiated with endless data, which is sometimes tedious and useless, is now being challenged by the government itself. In a completely separate scenario, GonziPN’s Minister for Finance has said that (economic) reality is different to what is being shown by statistics. Which version is going to be fed to the people come election time?