Public Transport in Malta is in such a state, especially since the reform carried out by Austin Gatt & Co, that Maltese public transport has become the laughing stock of visitors to our islands.
Labour Party spokesman Joe Sammut, speaking during a Press Conference called to assess the public transport situation and the serious problems that arose since the Minister for Transport started his so-called ‘reform’, said that Transport Malta should not abdicate from its responsibilities and should tackle these problems immediately.
In a reply to a Parliamentary question, tabled by Joe Mizzi, GonziPN has said that so far, Arriva have been paid € 324,000 for installation of new bus shelters, over and above the number agreed on the initial contract. Arriva have also been paid € 685,416 as compensation besides refunds for works carried out on instructions of Transport Malta. These variations in fees became applicable, notwithstanding the fact that the Maltese government had paid around € 700,000 in consultancy fees over the three years that GonziPN had planned and studied Gatt’s transport reform.
Joe Sammut said that the PL has brought to government’s attention the deficiencies in the transport reform, particularly that Arriva drivers were not being employed according to the criteria agreed to. He stressed that Arriva are taking the role of instructor, examiner and employer and bud driver licenses are being issued to people with little or no experience in the handling of busses. There are several experienced bus drivers who were not employed simply because they had taken part in the drivers’ strike or because of an anomaly in the issue of their bus driver’s licence. He also referred to a court decree wherein it was suggested that the authorities do not apply a particular judgment as an excuse not to issue these licences.
The PL spokesman also referred to the accident involving three Arriva busses at Portes des Bombes this week. He said that in Malta there have not been any serious accidents involving busses for the last 40 years and the public has never been so frustrated. Joe Sammut queried the maintenance programme on these buses and whether the safety features that should be installed on this type of vehicle are actually installed. He also said that public busses should be inspected regularly by independent inspectors. Sammut also referred to the usage of particular busses known as ‘OPTARE’ and that the public is concerned that Transport Malta is allowing use of these busses that can be very dangerous if their engines switch off.
Joe Sammut concluded by saying that the Minister and Transport Malta should act as soon a possible to avert other serious accidents. Austin Gatt cannot run away from this responsibility.