“The idea of having an underground in Malta is not news. It has resurfaced recently and various are the ideas being put forward. Without going into its pros and cons, there are important issues that have to be considered.
Between 2008 and 2013, then a member of Parliament, I was appointed by Dr Joseph Muscat, then Opposition leader, as main spokesman for transport and maritime affairs. It was a time when the then Minister for Transport Austin Gatt, decided to phase out the then existing Public Transport system.
It was also a time when the Nationalist government embarked on a series of road projects that were meant to address the efficiency of our road system. All combined, we ended up with a failed public transport system which proved to be even worse than its predecessor and a complete disaster in our roads – tails of never- ending traffic jams and the final product, a system of single-lane roads which, though aesthetically pleasing, inefficient.
In view of such a scenario I had suggested the setting up of a mini underground. A mini underground, as it is estimated that for an underground to be run in a viable manner, more than one million commuters are required to make use of it. Hence a mini underground that would run from Smart City to the Air Terminal up to Tal-Qroqq ending up in Qawra going through Sliema.
Another intersecting line from Rabat passing through Tal-Qroqq and ending in Valletta. Hence, the intersection at Tal-Qroqq where one finds Mater Dei Hospital and the University of Malta. Two destinations that between them attract more or less around 23,000 commuters a day.To compliment and encourage its use, underground carparks are to be constructed at every access to the underground to cater for commuters that prefer to go to such points by car. To complement it all, a circular regional network of public transport would be operated so as to pick or deliver commuters to the various established points. Additions of other points of exit or entrance to the system are a matter of planning.
This said things are not that easy. One of the biggest problems facing the construction of any kind of underground in Malta is the possibility of archaeological remains such as the Hypogeum. Due to such a possibility, all tunnelling has to go under 150 feet. Over and above this problem is the previous administration’s bad planning. Under the Nationalist administration, two important projects were undertaken – one commissioned by Enemalta running to the four directions of the island and the other for the gathering of water from certain areas in Malta, which brought about the tunnelling at certain locations to build water catchments.
When works were carried out on the Enemalta tunnel network, the planners opted not to consider another future use of these tunnels, that is, constructing them wider than actually required for multiple use purposes even though they were advised to so. This brought a situation were in order to construct an underground, one has to go even further under than would be the case with a big possibility of invading the water table.
All this was the subject of my various interventions in Parliament and also the subject of a document to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat in 2013. To read of introducing such a system only make me feel proud at the way I delivered my ideas, then to Parliament, even if they were unheeded by the then administration.
At this point, for all those proposing, it would be of essence to address the various difficulties earmarked above in this contribution. ”
Publish on the The Times on 27th February 2019.