Il-politka dwar it-trasport: aġenda moħbija?

Il-Gvern kontinwament jibgħat sinjali kontra xulxin fuq kulma għandu x’jaqsam mal-politika dwar it-trasport. Sinjali li jvarjaw skond min ikun qiegħed jisma’. Lura f’Settembru 2017 Joseph Muscat kien iddikjara li kienet il-politika tal-Gvern immexxi minnu li f’data fil-viċin kien ser jieħu passi biex fil-pajjiż ma jibqgħux jiġu impurtati karozzi li jaħdmu bil-petrol u d-diżil. Price Waterhouse Cooper jidher li ġew imqabbda biex iħejju rapport dettaljat dwar dan.

Minn dan is-sinjal ċar tistenna li toħroġ konklużjoni loġika. Għax jekk ser jibda l-proċess biex fit-toroq tagħna ma jkollniex iktar karozzi li jaħdmu bil-petrol u d-diżil, xi bżonn għandna tal-pompi tal-petrol u d-diżil iktar milli diġa għandna? Il-logika twasslek biex tikkonkludi li ta’ l-inqas ikollna waqfien immedjat u allura ma joħorġux permessi iktar għal pompi ġodda.

Minflok dan, iżda, ġara eżattament bil-maqlub. F’daqqa waħda kellna attività bla preċedent b’numru ta’ applikazzjonijiet għal pompi tal-petrol u d-diżil iktar minn qatt qabel. L-applikanti, bla ebda dubju huma konxji minn dak li qal il-Gvern dwar fejn irid jasal. Għalfejn jissograw investiment kapitali sostanzjali biex jiżviluppaw pompa li għaliha ma jkun hemm l-ebda użu hekk kif il-miri tal-Gvern jintlaħqu?

Il-Pjan Nazzjonali għat-Trasport 2025 kien imfassal għall-amministrazzjoni preżenti mill-konsorzju Italo-Spanjol Ineco-Systematica u ġie ffinanzjat mill-Fond Ewropew għall-Iżvilupp Regjonali. Dan il-pjan jenfasizza li l-politika dwar it-trasport f’Malta u l-ippjanar konness magħha ma tħarisx fit-tul. Biex ikun ċar daqs il-kristall il-pjan jgħid hekk: “In-nuqqas ta’ importanza li ngħata lill-ippjanar fit-tul ifisser li ma hemmx pjan integrat ibbażat fuq analiżi b’miri ċari. Dan wassal f’nuqqas ta’ direzzjoni strateġika kif ukoll fin-nuqqas ta’ kapaċità li jkunu indirizzati materji diffiċli bħal dik dwar il-kontroll tal-użu ta’ karozzi privati.”

Biex jassigura ruħu li dan il-messaġġ jasal, il-Pjan Nazzjonali dwar it-Trasport jemfasizza li “Hemm resistenza qawwija għall-bidla fis-soċjetà Maltija. Dan jikkuntrasta b’mod qawwi mal-ħtieġa li tinħass fil-komunità biex ikunu indirizzati l-problemi tat-traffiku, kemm dawk tal-lum kif ukoll dawk ta’ għada. Dan iwassal biex is-sewwieq Malti jippretendi li ħaddieħor jibdel l-attitudnijiet tiegħu ħalli hu jew hi tkun tista’ tibqa’ ssuq il-karozza.”

Il-Pjan Nazzjonali tat-Trasport imbagħad jidħol fid-dettall fuq il-miri operattivi dwar it-trasport fuq l-art, bl-ewwel mira tkun biex tkun ipprovduta alternattiva għall-karozzi privati ħalli b’hekk tkun inkoraġġita l-mobilità sostenibbli u allura tonqos id-domanda għall-karozzi privati fiz-zona madwar il-port li hi soġġett għal konġestjoni sostanzjali.

Għalfejn il-Pjan Nazzjonali jidentifika dan l-oġġettiv speċifiku? Dan qed isir biex ma jkun hemm l-ebda ambigwità. Il-Pjan Nazzjonali innifsu jispjega dan kollu b’mod mill-iktar ċar, iswed fuq l-abjad. “Dan l-oġġettiv ġie żviluppat minħabba li l-informazzjoni miġbura turi li madwar ħamsin fil-mija tal-vjaġġi jdumu inqas minn kwarta, li jindika li l-mobilità hi waħda lokali u fuq distanzi qosra. Dan joħloq il-possibilità li tiġi inkoraġġuta żieda fil-mixi u l-użu tar-rota.”

L-affarijiet ma jistgħux ikunu ċari iktar minn hekk. Id-distanzi qosra biex naslu pratikkament kullimkien hi element bażiku li fuqha u madwarha għandha tinbena l-politika tat-trasport f’Malta. Jekk dan ninjorawh nibqgħu nagħmlu l-ħsara lilna infusna.

Jekk verament irridu innaqqsu l-konġestjoni tat-traffiku fit-toroq tagħna, is-soluzzjoni hi waħda ċara: għandna nindirizzaw il-kawża ta’ dan kollu u nnaqqsu l-użu tal-karozzi privati għax għad-distanzi zgħar li għandna f’pajjiżna, fir-realtà, ftit li xejn għandna bżonnhom.

Imma flok ma jaħdem biex inaqqas il-karozzi mit-toroq, il-Gvern għaddej bi programm biex jinkoraġixxi l-oppost: twessiegħ ta’ toroq, flyovers u eżerċizzju sfrenat biex it-toroq tiżdiedilhom il-kapaċità li jifilħu iktar u iktar karozzi.

Għalfejn? X’inhi l-aġenda moħbija?

Ippubblikat fuq Illum : Il-Ħadd 31 ta’ Marzu 2019

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Transport policy: a hidden agenda?

Mishandling all matters relating to transport policy, the government is continuously sending conflicting signals, depending on who is listening at a particular moment. Way back in September 2017, Joseph Muscat made a policy declaration that his government would soon be taking steps to stop cars with internal combustion engines from entering the Maltese market. Price Waterhouse Cooper have apparently been commissioned to draw up a detailed study on the matter.

Given this clear signal, one would expect the logical conclusion: if we are to start the road map to eliminate cars with internal combustion engines from our roads, what need is there for additional fuel service stations? Logically, one would at the very least expect an immediate moratorium on the construction of new fuel stations.

Instead, we have the exact opposite. All of a sudden, we have unprecedented activity and development applications for more fuel stations then ever before. The applicants are undoubtedly aware of government’s objectives. So why would they risk a substantial capital outlay to develop a fuel station for which there would be little use if government’s declared objectives come to fruition?

The National Transport Master Plan 2025, drawn up for the present administration by the Italo-Hispanic consortium Ineco-Systematica and funded by the European Regional Development Fund, points out that transport planning and policy in Malta has been generally more short-term in nature. To be as clear as possible, the Master Plan continues by stating that: “The lack of importance given to long-term planning means that a long-term integrated plan based on solid analysis with clear objectives and targets is lacking. This has resulted in the lack of strategic direction and the inherent inability to address difficult issues such as private vehicle restraint.”

To ensure that the message gets through, the Master Plan emphasises that “There is a strong reluctance for Maltese society to change but this is in contrast with the need for communal action to address the traffic problems existing now and in the future. This results in the Maltese traveller expecting that everyone else will change their travel habits so that they can continue to drive their car.”

The Master Plan then details its road transport operational objectives, the first one of which is to provide alternatives to private vehicles in order to “encourage sustainable travel patterns and reduce private vehicular demand in the congested harbour area”.

Why has the Master Plan identified this specific objective? There is no room for ambiguity, as the answer is provided in the Master Plan itself – in black on white: “This objective has been developed since the data shows that about 50% of trips are under 15 minutes illustrating that mobility is produced at a local level on very short paths. This therefore creates the opportunity to increase the modal share for walking and cycling.” It could not be more clear than this. Short distances to practically anywhere is the basic building block of our transport policy, which we ignore at our peril.

Do we want to reduce congestion on our roads? The solution we have been advised to opt for is to reduce vehicular traffic, as most of it is not really needed due to the short distances actually travelled.

Instead of reducing the number of cars on our roads, our government opts for the exact opposite: the widening of roads and the development of flyovers and underpasses to increase the capacity of our roads and, as a result, make way for more and more cars.

What is the hidden agenda?

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 31st March 2019

Il-maltempata tas-Sibt tort tal-Gvern?

Ovvja li le.

Imma l-politika tal-Gvern dwar it-transport tinkoraġixxi iktar karozzi fit-toroq tagħna. Din qed tagħti kontribut biex ikollna iktar minn dawn il-maltempati. Mhux biss iktar fin-numru imma iktar spissi ukoll. Dan minħabba l-emissjonijiet tal-karozzi li jikkontribwixxu għat-tibdil fil-klima.

Ilu kważi tmintax-il xahar li l-Gvern ħabbar li qed jikkonsidra li jieħu passi biex il-karozzi fit-toroq la jaħdmu bil-petrol u l-anqas bid-diesel. Iktar ma jdum ma jiddeċiedi dwar dan ikun qed jagħti kontribut biex ikollna iktar minn dawn il-maltempati.

L-istess għandu jingħad għall-investiment qawwi fit-toroq biex dawn jitwessgħu. Dan ser jiffaċilitaw il-moviment ta’ karozzi bil-konsegwenza li ser jiżdiedu l-karozzi fit-toroq. Dan ifisser li l-investiment fit-toroq hu fil-fatt investiment favur it-tibdil fil-klima.

Hemm xi ħaġa oħra: kemm ser idumu ħerġin permessi għal pompi tal-petrol (u d-diesel). X’nambuhom dawn jekk suppost ftit żmien ieħor u ma jkunx hemm bżonnhom? U bil-ħaqq kemm ser iddum ma toħroġ il-policy l-ġdida dwar il-pompi tal-petrol?

Maltempati dejjem kellna. Minn żmien żemżem. Imma kemm ilhom jaħkmuna l-impatti tat-tibdil fil-klima dawn il-maltempati saru iktar intensi u iktar frekwenti. Il-maltempata mhux tort ta’ Joseph! Imma jekk ser idum ikaxkar saqajh biex jiddeċiedi ser ikompli jagħti kontribut għal iktar maltempati minn dawn.

L-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar tinkoraġixxi l-ispekulazzjoni tal-art

L-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar qed toħroġ il-permessi ta’ żvilupp għall-pompi tal-petrol u d-dijsil ħierġin bħall-pastizzi.

Xi xhur ilu, f’diskors li għamel il-Prim Ministru kien qal li l-Gvern immexxi minnu jaqbel li karozzi li jaħdmu bil-petrol jew bid-dijsil għandhom jispiċċaw mit-toroq Maltin. Nhar l-10 ta’ Settembru 2017 Joseph Muscat kien ħabbar li l-Gvern kien fi ħsiebu li “dal-waqt” jagħti bidu għal konsultazzjoni pubblika biex ikun stabilit meta u kif għandha tkun implimentata din il-politika li bħala riżultat tagħha jkunu jistgħu jinxtraw biss karozzi li jaħdmu bl-elettriku jew karozzi simili.

Għaddew seba’ xhur u għadna qed nistennew li jibda dan il-proċess ta’ konsultazzjoni pubblika. Sadanittant, aħna u nistennew, l-ispekulaturi tal-art, bl-għajnuna tal-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar għaddejjin xalata: jippjanaw kif jirrovinaw iktar raba’, 3000 metru kwadru kull darba, u dan biex jibnu pompi li ftit ieħor mhux ser ikollna bżonn. Imbagħad x’nagħmlu bl-art li tkun diġa ġiet rovinata?

Alternattiva Demokratika taqbel li m’għandniex ħtieġa ta’ karozzi li jaħdmu bil-petrol u d-dijsil fit-toroq tagħna. Fil-fatt kienet Alternattiva Demokratika, bil-ħsieb li tintlaħaq il-mira strateġika ta’ Karbonju Żero fil-gżejjer Maltin li fil-Manifest Elettorali ta’ l-aħħar elezzjoni ġenerali poġġiet quddiem l-elettorat din il-proposta speċifika: li fi żmien 20 sena, ċjoe sal-2037, għandhom jispiċċaw il-karozzi kollha li jaħdmu bil-petrol u d-dijsil mit-toroq Maltin. Alternattiva Demokratika kienet l-uniku partit politiku f’Malta li kien ċar fuq dan f’Malta sa minn qabel l-elezzjoni ġenerali.

Id-dikjarazzjoni tal-Prim Ministru tal-10 ta’ Settembru 2017 kellha twassal għall-konklużjoni loġika li m’għandniex bżonn ta’ iktar pompi tal-petrol u d-dijsil. Kien ikun floku kieku tħabbar moratorju immedjat. Fil-fatt messna qegħdin ngħoddu l-ġranet li neħilsu darba għal dejjem mill-karozzi li jaħdmu bil-petrol u d-dijsil. Bħala riżultat ta’ dan messu hu ovvju li fil-futur qarib m’hu ser ikollna bżonn l-ebda pompa tal-petrol jew dijsil: dawn għandhom jonqsu mit-80 li għandna illum sa xejn u dan meta tkun implimentata b’mod sħiħ il-politika mħabbra mill-Prim Ministru u li dwarha ilna 7 xhur nistennew il-konsultazzjoni pubblika.

M’għandniex bżonn ta’ pompi ġodda: imma għandna bżonn li jagħlqu l-pompi li ġja hawn mingħajr ma jinħolqu oħrajn flokhom. L-20 sena proposti minn Alternattiva Demokratika fil-manifest elettorali tal-2017 biex jispiċċaw mit-toroq Maltin karozzi li jaħdmu bil-petrol jew bid-dijsil kienu meqjusa raġjonevoli, suffiċjenti u fl-istess direzzjoni ta’ deċiżjonijiet politiċi simili li ittieħdu minn pajjiżi oħra. Dan hu żmien biżżejjed biex tkun żviluppata l-infrastruttura nazzjonali meħtieġa għall-karozzi li jaħdmu bl-elettriku. Hu ukoll biżżejjed biex dawk li għandhom dawn it-tip ta’ karozzi jibdew jidraw ftit l-iżvilupp ta’ din ir-realtá ġdida bla petrol jew dijsil.

Bosta pajjiżi oħra diġa ddeċidew, inkella qegħdin fil-proċess li jiddeċiedu li fit-toroq tagħhom ma jkollhomx iktar karozzi li jaħdmu bil-petrol jew bid-dijsil. Dawn jinkludu in-Norveġja u l-Olanda (it-tnejn sal-2025), il-Ġermanja (sal-2030), Franza, r-Renju l–Indja u ċ-Ċina (lkoll sal-2040). Ma jdumx ma jkun hemm oħrajn ukoll.
L-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar qegħda tkompli tinjora dan l-iżvilupp importanti fil-politika tal-pajjiż billi tibqa’ għaddejja bl-applikazzjoni tal-politika imsejħa 2015 Fuel Service Stations Policy b’mod robotiku. Din il-politika dwar il-pompi tal-petrol u d-dijsil tippermetti qies massimu permissibli ta’ 3000 metru kwadru imma l-Awtoritá qatt ma qieset li kien neċessarju li tordna tnaqqis fil-qies tal-proposti li kellha quddiema. Għax kollha kellhom il-qies massimu ta’ 3000 metru kwadru. Bħala riżultat ta’ dan l-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar flok għal pompi qed toħroġ permessi għal żoni massiċċi kummerċjali barra miż-żona tal-iżvilupp.

Din hi l-agħar forma ta’ spekulazzjoni tal-art u f’dan il-kaz it-tort hu unikament tal-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar. L-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar hi ta’ theddida għall-ġenerazzjonijiet futuri. Dan hu l-punt li għamlu ż-żgħażagħ mill-Moviment Graffiti u l-Kamp Emerġenza Ambjent meta nhar il-Ħamis ipprotestaw u ħarbtu laqgħa tal-Bord tal-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar waqt li dan kien qiegħed jikkunsidra applikazzjoni għall-pompa ġdida tal-petrol u d-dijsil f’Ħal-Luqa.

Għandna Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar li hi ala bieba mill-ambjent u mill-kwalitá tal-ħajja. Bil-provi.

 

 

The Planning Authority encourages land speculation

Development permits for fuel stations are being approved left, right and centre by the Planning Authority.

Some months ago,  in a speech made in public, the Prime Minister said that the Government agrees that use of petrol and diesel cars should be phased out and that, in future, all cars should be electric. On the 10 September 2017, Joseph Muscat announced that government would “shortly” be launching a consultation on “setting a cut-off date beyond which all new car purchases would have to be electric or similar vehicles.”

Seven months have elapsed, and we are still waiting for the consultation exercise to be launched. And while we wait, land speculators (with the Planning Authority’s assistance) are in festive mood, plotting the ruin of 3000 square metres at a time to develop fuel stations that we will shortly not need any more. And what will be done with the spoiled land then?

Alternattiva Demokratika agrees with the proposal to establish a cut-off date for cars that run on petrol and diesel. Indeed in its manifesto at the last general election,  with a strategic zero carbon future for the Maltese Islands in mind, it put forward this specific proposal to the electorate: that internal combustion engine cars should be off our roads in 20 years time, that is by 2037. Alternattiva Demokratika was the only political party in Malta that took this clear stand before the general election.

In view of the Prime Minister’s declaration of the 10 September 2017, the logical conclusion is that new fuel stations are not required. An immediate moratorium would be in order and, in fact, we should be on the eve of the start of a countdown that would rid us of cars that run on petrol or diesel. Consequently, there will be no need for fuel stations in the not too distant future: reducing from the current 80 to none, when the phase-out – which is still subject to public consultation – is fully implemented.

We do not need new fuel stations: what we need is that existing fuel stations are closed down without their being replaced. The 20-year time-frame proposed by Alternattiva Demokratika in its 2017 electoral manifesto was considered to be reasonable, sufficient and in line with similar policy decisions taken in other countries. This time-frame was deemed sufficient to develop the required national infrastructure for electric-powered cars. It was also deemed to be a reasonable length of time to permit those who own vehicles running on internal combustion engines to adjust to the development of a new reality without petrol or diesel.

Various other countries have decided on – or are considering – the elimination of internal combustion engine driven vehicles from their roads. These include Norway and the Netherlands (both by 2025), Germany (by 2030), France, the United Kingdom, India and China (all by 2040). Others will soon follow.

The Planning Authority continues to ignore this policy development by applying the 2015 Fuel Service Stations Policy robotically. This policy establishes a maximum permissible size of 3000 square metres but the Authority did not consider it appropriate to scale down any of the proposals submitted for its consideration as all the approved stations cover the maximum size possible. As a result, the Planning Authority is churning out permits for massive commercial areas outside the development zone.

This is land speculation at its worst and the Planning Authority has no one to blame but itself and is a threat to future generations. This is the point made by the protestors from Graffiti and Kamp Emerġenza Ambjent last Thursday, when they stormed a Planning Authority Board meeting considering a development application for a new fuel station at Luqa.

We have a Planning Authority which doesn’t give two hoots about the environment and our quality of life.

 

Published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 8 April 2018

 

L-Ippjanar rasu l-isfel

Nhar l-Erbgħa, l-Kumitat Parlamentari dwar l-Ambjent u l-Ippjanar beda d-diskussjoni dwar jekk għandux ikun hemm tibdil fil-politika dwar il-pompi tal-petrol (u d-disil) (Fuel Service Stations Policy) tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar. Bla dubju kien xprunat mid-deċiżjonijiet riċenti tal-istess awtorità dwar pompi tal-petrol f’f’Burmarrad, Marsaskala u l-Magħtab. Hemm applikazzjonijiet pendenti għal pompi ġodda f’Ħ’Attard, l-Imqabba u l-Iklin fil-waqt li hemm madwar 60 pompa oħra qed jistennew il-permessi mill-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar biex itejbu l-faċilitajiet inkluż protezzjoni ambjentali u dan minn total eżistenti ta’ 85 pompa.

Il-kummenti validi kienu bosta. Ikkonċentraw l-iktar fuq il-ħtieġa li l-pompi tal-petrol fiż-żona urbana jingħalqu u li dawn jiċċaqalqu xi mkien ieħor. Ftit iżda kien hemm ħeġġa biex tkun diskussa l-qalba tal-materja: xi bżonn għandna tal-pompi tal-petrol?

Madwar ħames xhur ilu, il-Prim Ministru, wara li għal darba oħra ħares ħarsa sewwa lejn il-Manifest Elettorali ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika tal-2017, ħabbar, li l-Gvern immexxi minnu kien ser jagħti bidu għal process ta’ konsultazzjoni pubblika. Dan biex jistabilixxi data minn meta karozzi li jaħdmu bil-petrol u d-disil ma jkunux jistgħu jinbiegħu iktar biex minflok ikollna karozzi li jaħdmu bl-elettriku. Ma smajna xejn iktar dwar dan ħlief artiklu miktub mill-Ministru tat-Trasport Ian Borg entużjażmat li fis-snin li ġejjin ser nimxu fuq il-passi ta’ pajjiżi Ewropej oħra.

Il-Prim Ministru, bir-raġun kollu emfasizza li din il-bidla fil-politika tal-Gvern kienet meħtieġa minħabba li l-emmissjonijiet tal-karozzi kienu l-ikbar sors ta’ tniġġiż tal-arja fil-pajjiż. Għalfejn dan id-dewmien kollu biex ikunu stabiliti u mħabbra d-dettalji ta’ din id-deċiżjoni tajba? Uħud mill-pajjiżi Ewropej ilhom żmien li għamlu dan. In-Norveġja u l-Olanda stabilew is-sena 2025, il-Ġermanja qed tikkonsidra s-sena 2030, fil-waqt li Franza u r-Renju Unit huma mħajra għas-sena 2040 biex iwaqqfu l-bejgħ ta’ karozzi li jaħdmu bil-petrol u d-disil.

Id-diskussjoni dwar il-politika li tikkonċerna l-pompi tal-petrol/disil għandha issir f’kuntest wiesgħa tal-politika tat-trasport inkluż l-elettrifikazzjoni tal-mezzi privati tat-trasport.

Il-punt ewlieni tad-diskussjoni huwa li bħala riżultat tal-elettrifikazzjoni n-numru ta’ pompi tal-petrol/disel meħtieġa mhux ser jiżdied imma ser jonqos fuq medda ta’ snin u dan sakemm jasal għal xejn jew kważi xejn. Allura għalfejn nibnu u ninkoraġixxu l-bini ta’ iktar pompi tal-petrol/disil? Ikun ferm iktar għaqli kieku l-investiment nindirizzawh lejn is-soluzzjoni tal-problemi, mhux lejn it-tkattir tagħhom!

Il-pompi tal-petrol eżistenti fiż-żoni urbani qed jintużaw bħala skuża biex jippruvaw jiġġustifikaw it-tħarbit ta’ 3000 metru kwadru ta’ art. Fil-fatt dan hu l-iskop ewlieni tal-politika dwar il-pompi tal-fjuwil approvata fl-2015.

Ma jkunx aħjar li flok ma jingħalqu l-pompi tal-petrol fl-abitat ikunu konvertiti f’lok fejn tiċċarġja l-batteriji tal-karozzi? Dawn il-pompi qegħdin fil-parti l-kbira tagħhom f’żoni ċentrali u huma ġeneralment ta’ qies żgħir. Kull pompa tal-petrol urbana li tkun salvata u konvertita biex fiha niċċarġjaw il-batteriji tfisser ukoll li nkunu salvajna 3000 metru kwadru ta’ art minn spekulazzjoni. Fl-istess ħin inkunu qed nippovdu servizz li ser ikun essenzjali eżatt fejn hu meħtieġ.

Dan ikun użu tajjeb għall-investiment, aħjar milli jintuża f’bini ta’ pompi ġodda barra miż-żona ta’ l-iżvilupp. Jekk dan isir inkunu qed nittrasformaw problema eżistenti f’diversi lokalitajiet f’soluzzjoni addattata għall-bini tal-infrastruttura meħtieġa għall-eletrifikazzjoni tat-trasport privat f’Malta.

Dan ovvjament ifisser li nkunu qed naqilbu ta’ taħt fuq il-politika dwar il-pompi tal-fjuwil. Flok ma nużaw il-pompi urbani bħala skuża biex tkun ġustifikata l-ispekulazzjoni tal-art inkunu qed nagħtu spinta tajba lill-ħarsien ambjentali.

Hu eżattament dan li għandna bżonn f’dan il-mument: naqilbu l-ippjanar rasu l-isfel.

 

Ippubblikat fuq Illum : Il-Ħadd 4 ta’ Frar 2018

 

Turning the Fuel Service Stations Policy on its head

Last Wednesday, the Parliamentary Environment and Land Use Planning Committee discussed the possible revision of the Fuel Service Stations Policy. The three development permits issued in the past weeks by the Planning Authority for fuel service stations at Burmarrad, Marsaskala and Magħtab without doubt was the spark that motivated the discussion. Among the pending applications, Attard, Mqabba and Iklin are queuing for new service stations, while over 60 more, from a current total of 85 stations are awaiting the Planning Authority go-ahead for upgrading.

A number of valid observations were made. Most of the discussion dealt with the need to relocate service stations currently within urban areas but there was, however, a reluctance to address head-on the real issue: do we need fuel service stations?

Almost five months ago, the Prime Minister – taking a leaf from Alternattiva Demokratika’s 2017 election manifesto – announced that his government will be launching a public consultation to establish a cut-off date for the sale of diesel and petrol cars in Malta and the use of only electricity-driven vehicles instead. We have not heard much more about this proposal, apart for an article by Transport Minister Ian Borg who wrote about following in the footsteps of other European countries in “phasing out new petrol and diesel vehicles in the next few decades”.

The Prime Minister has rightly emphasised that this change in policy is required in view of the fact that vehicle emissions are the largest source of pollution in Malta, but why wait so long to put flesh on the bare bones of the declared policy? Other European countries have already determined their cut-off date. Norway and the Netherlands are considering the year 2025, Germany is considering 2030, while France and the United Kingdom are opting for the year 2040 by which to halt the sale of diesel and petrol vehicles.

Revisiting the Fuel Service Stations Policy should not be discussed in a vacuum. It has to be placed in the context of related transport policies and in particular the fact (hopefully) that Malta should now be going electric.

The main issue clearly is that, as a result of going electric, the number of fuel service stations required will at some point in the future – hopefully the not so very distant future – will be next to nil. So why build more of them? Why encourage investment in something that is not needed? It would be much better to channel investment into resolving problems instead of adding to them.

The relocation of urban area fuel service stations – the main thrust of the Fuel Service Stations Policy approved in 2015 – is being used to justify the uptake of 3,000 square metres of land. But instead of relocating the existing service stations in urban areas, would it not be much better if these were converted into charging stations? These service stations are centrally located and mostly of a relatively small size. Every conversion one into a charging station would potentially save 3000 square metres of land in the middle of nowhere and simultaneously provide the service of electrically charging vehicles right where that service is required: in our urban areas.

It is towards the conversion of these fuel stations that investment should be channelled. They can be transformed from being a problem in our residential communities to being an integral and focal part of the strategy to develop a suitable, reliable and – above all – sustainable infrastructure so necessary for the electrification of private transport.

This would obviously turn the Fuel Service Stations policy upside down. Instead of using urban service stations as an excuse to trigger more land speculation, it is about time to inject some environmental considerations right where they are most needed.

This is what we need right now: the turning of the Fuel Service Stations Policy on its head.

 

published on the Malta Independent on Sunday : 4 February 2018