Il-politika dwar it-trasport: ħtieġa li nħarsu fit-tul

Biex nindirizzaw sewwa l-ħtiġijiet tal-pajjiż jeħtieġ li nħarsu fit-tul. Biex dan iseħħ hu meħtieġ ippjanar serju: li wara li jikkonsidra l-possibilitajiet kollha u janalizza l-impatti li jistgħu jirriżultaw iwassal għal deċiżjoni dwar l-aħjar soluzzjoni u mbagħad sussegwentement li din tkun imwettqa.

L-implimentazzjoni tal-politika dwar it-trasport, f’Malta, ma tħarisx fit-tul. Dan minkejja li għandna pjani ppreparati riċentement: il-Master Plan dwar it-Trasport li jwassal sal-2025 u l-Istrateġija Nazzjonali dwar it-Trasport li twassal sal-2050.

Imma sfortunatament hemm diskrepanza mhux żgħira bejn il-politika dwar it-trasport u l-implimentazzjoni tagħha. L-interventi fl-infrastruttura mwettqa jew li qed jitħejjew minn Trasport Malta u/jew Infrastruttura Malta ftit li xejn jaqblu mal-għanijiet dikjarati tal-Master Plan u l-Istrateġija dwar it-Trasport.

Ħa nkun ċar: mhux qed ngħid li m’għandu jsir xejn. Id-diżastru li qed niffaċċjaw fil-qasam tat-trasport jista’ jsir agħar milli hu illum jekk ma jsir xejn. Jeħtieġ bla dubju intervent mill-Gvern, imma dan jeħtieġ li jkun ippjanat u iffukat fuq il-problemi reali kif identifikati fil-pjani mfassla għall-Gvern Malti fl-2015 mill-konsulenti tiegħu tal-konsortju Italo-Spanjol Ineco-Systematica, imħallsa mill-fondi Ewropej dwar l-iżvilupp reġjonali.

L-għanijiet li jeħtieġ li jintlaħqu huma mfissra fid-daħla għall-Master Plan dwar it-Trasport li hi ffirmata mill-Ministru tat-Transport ta’ dak iż-żmien Joe Mizzi: “Malta, bħal bosta pajjiżi oħra qed tiffaċċja l-isfidi riżultat ta’ bdil fl-istil ta’ ħajja li ngħixu u li qed iwasslu f’domanda ikbar għall-mobilitá personali u dipendenza ikbar fuq karozzi privati. Iktar minn qatt qabel illum jeħtieġilna li nfittxu bilanċ bejn, fuq naħa waħda l-ħarsien tal-ambjent, il-protezzjoni ta’ saħħitna u li nilqgħu għall-impatti negattivi tat-tibdil fil-klima u fuq in-naħa l-oħra t-titjib fl-ekonomija tal-pajjiż. Dan iwassal għal insistenza għal transport pubbliku li jkun aħjar u ta’ min joqgħod fuqu, u għall-użu ta’ mezzi oħra (ta’ transport) kif ukoll integrazzjoni aħjar ta’ dawn il-mezzi.”

Dan hu messaġġ ċar li jemfasizza l-ħtieġa urġenti li nagħmlu użu ta’ mezzi alternattivi ta’ transport kif ukoll li nassiguraw illi nintegraw sewwa l-facilitajiet ta’ transport li għandna. Huwa propju dan li jagħmel il-Master Plan tat-Trasport.

Huwa tajjeb li ninnotaw illi l-Master Plan jemfasizza li nofs il-vjaġġi li jsiru b’karozzi privati fil-gzejjer Maltin jdumu inqas minn 15-il minuta. Dan jindika li din il-mobilitá hi waħda primarjament ta’ natura lokali fuq distanzi qosra. Dan, fil-fehma tal-Master Plan, jagħtina l-opportunitá li ninkoraġixxu iktar mixi u użu tar-rota. Imma, iżid jgħid il-Master Plan, hemm il-ħtieġa ta’ titjib fil-kwalitá tal-faċilitajiet fiċ-ċentri tal-ibliet u l-irħula tagħna, kemm għal min jimxi kif ukoll għal min jagħmel użu mir-rota.

Dan jurina b’mod ċar li jeżistu soluzzjonijiet li jindirizzaw il-mobilitá tagħna kemm fil-lokalitajiet infushom kif ukoll bejn l-lokalitá u oħra. Dawn is-soluzzjonijiet, li jħarsu fit-tul, għandhom il-possibilitá li jindirizzaw nofs il-vjaġġi li jsiru bil-karozzi privati, l-parti l-kbira minnhom fil-ħinijiet li jkun hemm ħafna traffiku fit-toroq tagħna. Dan mingħajr ma biss nikkunsidraw xi bypass jew proġett ta’ toroq massiċċ. Safejn naf jiena, s’issa, fit-tliet snin li suppost illi ilu fis-seħħ il-Master Plan tat-Trasport, ma ittieħdet l-ebda inizjattiva ta’ din ix-xorta. Dan hu qasam ta’ ħidma li fih is-sehem tal-kunsilli lokali huwa essenzjali għax ifisser li hemm il-ħtieġa li niddiżinjaw mill-ġdid it-toroq u l-ispazji pubbliċi kollha tagħna b’mod li nittrasformawhom biex ikunu għas-servizz tar-residenti u mhux iktar biex jiffaċilitaw l-użu tal-karozzi kif wara kollox huma illum.

Il-karozzi ħadulna t-toroq. Hemm bżonn li neħduhom lura.

Li ntejbu l-infrastruttura tat-toroq tagħna u dik li nsejħulha l-għamara tat-triq twassal biex jibda jkun implimentat il-Master Plan tat-Trasport għax jinkoraġixxi t-tnaqqis fl-użu tal-karozzi privati għad-distanzi qosra: u dan ftakru li jinvolvi nofs il-vjaġġi li jsiru bil-karozzi! Iktar emfasi fuq il-ħtieġa ta’ użu tat-transport pubbliku fuq livell ta’ lokalitá għandu jwassal ukoll għal żieda fl-użu bejn lokalitajiet fil-qrib. Jekk dan isir sewwa, bla dubju, tonqos id-dipendenza fuq il-karozza privata u iktar nies tifhem kemm ma hemmx ħtieġa tal-proġetti kbar ta’ toroq li hawn għaddejjin bħalissa li huma sempliċiment ħela ta’ flus li nistgħu nużaw ħafna aħjar.

Din hi stampa żgħira tal-ħarsa fit-tul li l-konsulenti Italo-Spanjoli tal-gvern fasslu fil- Master Plan tat-Trasport. Hi għodda tajba li tista’ tgħinna nnaqqsu d-dipendenza żejda tagħna fuq il-karozza privati, li wasslet għall-qagħda diżastruża fit-toroq tagħna illum. Għandna nimplimentaw dawn il-proposti malajr kemm jista’ jkun: illum qabel għada.

 

Ippubblikat fuq Illum : il-Ħadd 9 ta’ Settembru 2018

 

 

 

 

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Transport policy: missing the long term view

To  adequately tackle a country’s needs, a long-term view is essential. This necessitates serious planning: that is to say considering all the possible options, analysing the resulting possible impacts, taking a decision on the optimum solution and then implementing that decision.

The implementation of transport policy in Malta is such that the long-term view is almost completely discarded. I say “almost” because it exists on paper in the form of a Transport Master Plan running untill 2025 and a National Transport Strategy running untill 2050.

Unfortunately, there is a mismatch between transport policy and action. The infrastructural interventions being planned or being carried out through Transport Malta and/or Infrastructure Malta do not match the declared objectives in the Transport Master Plan and Strategy.

Let me be clear: doing nothing is not an option. The current transport mess cannot be left unattended as it can only get worse. It requires government intervention, which must be planned and focused on addressing the real issues identified in the transport plans drawn for the Maltese government in 2015 by the Ineco-Systematica Consortium, the Italo-Spanish consultants paid for from EU regional development funds.

The objectives to be achieved are encapsulated in the forward to the Transport Master Plan signed by former Transport Minister Joe Mizzi: “Malta, like many other countries, faces the challenges of lifestyle changes that have resulted in increased demand for personal mobility and more dependence on private cars. Today, more than ever, we need to strike a fine balance between protecting our environment, preserving our health and mitigating the negative impacts of climate change, on the one hand, and improving economic performance on the other. This will call for better quality and more reliable public transport, a shift to alternative modes and better integration between these modes.”

It is a clear and unambiguous statement emphasising the urgent need for a modal shift to alternative transport means and ensuring appropriate integration between the transport facilities available. The Transport Master Plan does precisely this: it plans the way to achieve this modal shift in a 10-year timeframe.

It is pertinent to point out that the Transport Master Plan 2025 underlines the fact that 50 per cent of journeys by private vehicles in the Maltese islands are of under 15-minutes duration, indicating that substantial mobility produced at local levels on very short paths. This, opines the Master Plan, creates the opportunity to increase the modal share for walking and cycling, as the distances travelled are short. However, it adds: “there is the need to promote and strengthen the quality of the pedestrian and cycling facilities” within and around town centres.

This clearly indicates that long term solutions can be found in addressing the mobility preferences within localities themselves, as well as between neighbouring localities. This has the potential of tackling 50 per cent of vehicles movements, a substantial portion of them during peak-traffic time, without even considering any bypass or major road project. I am not aware of any such initiative so far, three years after the approval of the Transport Master Plan. It is an area of action in which the involvement of local councils is essential, as it will involve redesigning practically all of our roads and public spaces in each and every locality in order that they are transformed to be resident-friendly rather than vehicle-friendly, as they have been to date.

Cars have taken up our roads and we need to take them back.

Improving our locality infrastructure and street furniture so that our roads are resident-friendly should be the first step in implementing The Transport Master Plan and, remember, this involves 50 per cent of trips made by private vehicles. Adding emphasis to the need to make more use of public transport, even at a local level, should also increase its use between neighbouring localities. If done properly, this could further reduce the dependency on private vehicles and consequently put a substantial break on the perceived need of massive road infrastructural projects which are just monies down the drain which we could definitely put to better use.

This is just a snapshot of the long-term view that the government’s Italo-Spanish advisors provided in the Transport Master Plan 2025. It is a tool which can help wean us away from excessive dependency on private cars that has resulted in a transport policy failure over the years. It is about time that the provisions of this Master Plan are implemented, and the sooner, the better.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 9th September 2018

Il-każ ta’ Toni Bezzina, Membru Parlamentari tal-PN

Pullicino + Bezzina

Il-gazzetta tal-Partit Laburista, KullĦadd, il-bieraħ ippubblikat storja dwar Toni Bezzina, Perit fid-Direttorat Ġenerali tax-Xogħolijiet (jiġifieri l-Public Works) u Membru Parlamentari tal-PN, elett mill-ħames distrett. L-istorja, skond il-gazzzetta hi ibbażata fuq rapport ta’ inkjesta liema rapport għadu mhux ippubblikat. Ġew ippubblikati biss siltiet selettivi minnu fil-gazzetta tal-Partit Laburista KulĦadd.

Mhux ser noqgħod nistaqsi min ħareġ dan ir-rapport, għax it-tweġiba hi ovvja. Il-partit fil-Gvern jidhirlu li jista’ jieħu vantaġġ politiku minn din il-publikazzjoni u allura ħareġ l-istorja. Xejn ġdid s’hawn. Il-Gvern seta mexa ħafna aħjar kieku ppubblika r-rapport kollu flok partijiet selettivi minnu. Għax qabel il-vantaġġ politiku hemm id-dritt tal-pubbliku li jkun infurmat. It-trasparenza, sfortunatament, mhiex parti mill-vokabolarju ta’ dan il-Gvern.

Il-każ huwa dwar ħaddiema tal-Gvern (mid-Direttorat Ġenerali tax-Xogħolijiet) li kienu mqabbda jagħmlu xi xoghol ta’ manutenzjoni fil-każin tal-Partit Nazzjonalista taż-Żurrieq meta l-Perit Toni Bezzina kien President tal-istess każin qabel l-elezzjoni ġenerali ta’ Marzu 2013. Qed jingħad li x-xogħol sar waqt il-ħinijiet normali tax-xogħol (bil-pagi ovvjament imħallsa mill-Gvern) u probabbilment li intuża ukoll materjal imħallas minn fondi pubbliċi. Qed nifhem li l-Perit tal-Gvern inkarigat minn dawn il-ħaddiema kien ukoll Toni Bezzina.

Hemm ħafna x’jiġi imwieġeb dwar dan kollu.

L-ewwel u qabel kollox ir-rapport għandu jkun ippubblikat kollu mingħajr dewmien mill-Ministru Joe Mizzi li illum huwa responsabbli mid-Direttorat Ġenerali tax-Xogħolijiet.

Wara dan tkun tinħtieġ spjega mill-Ministru ta’ dakinnhar, jiġifieri George Pullicino (illum kelliemi tal-PN għall-Kindergarten). Jeħtieġ li Pullicino jispjega għalfejn dan ir-rapport inħeba. Probabbilment li George Pullicino jagħtina r-risposta tas-soltu, kull meta jkun dahru mal-ħajt: li hu ma kellux x’jaqsam u ma jaf b’xejn. Probabbilment ukoll li jwaħħal fis-Segretarju Permanenti li kellu.

Jekk hemm provi dwar l-abbużi allegati, hemm bżonn ta’ ferm iktar minn spjegazzjoni mingħand Toni Bezzina. Li kieku dan ir-rapport ħareġ qabel l-elezzjoni ġenerali tal-2013 probabbilment li Toni Bezzina ma kienx jitħalla joħroġ għall-elezzjoni. Min jaf, forsi għalhekk baqa’ mistur dan ir-rapport?

Dan kien jonqsu l-Partit Nazzjonalista fil-Ħames Distrett! Il-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni Simon Busuttil irid jgħaddi mill-kliem għall-fatti.

 

Reducing 122,000 vehicles from Malta’s roads

 

traffic congestion

source : http://www.um.edu.mt/think/bad-traffic-bad-air/

 

The government is apparently worried about parking problems being faced by practically all localities in Malta and Gozo. In fact, during a press conference by Transport Minister Joe Mizzi in Rabat recently, it was stated that a policy document on parking has been submitted for Cabinet’s consideration, prior to its being issued for public consultation. As usual, the government worries about effects and is very rarely willing (or able) to exercise some thought on the causes of the everyday problems we all face.

The National Statistics Office says that at the end of the Third Quarter of 2014, Malta had 332,455 vehicles on its roads.  With a population of around 421,000 this translates into 790 vehicles per 1000 population, one of the highest vehicle ownership profiles in the world. Being one of the smallest countries, with everywhere being within easy reach, it would be logical to expect that Malta should have a much different and lower vehicle ownership profile. This also sharply contrasts with the vehicle ownership profile of the USA (786), Italy (682), UK (516), Spain (592) and Switzerland (573). Even Luxembourg’s profile which stands at  741 per thousand is lower than Malta’s.

To visualise the severity of the problem, it is being stated that if Malta were to have a vehicle ownership profile of say 500 vehicles per thousand population (close to that of the United Kingdom  which currently stands at 516), the total number of vehicles on Maltese roads would be 210,673, that is a reduction of 121,784 vehicles from the current total. This would amount to a reduction of 36.63% of vehicles on Malta’s roads at present. This I submit is a realistic objective that we should aim for: reducing 122,000 vehicles from Malta’s roads.

Thus the issue which  should be tackled by Malta’s Minister for Transport is not one of seeking space for parking but reducing the number of vehicles on our roads. While parking is a problem, which will undoubtedly get worse, it is not the major transport problem in Malta.  Extensive car ownership is “the” problem. Too many vehicles on the road is not a sign of affluence but a clear indicator of administrative incompetence throughout the years. This should be the primary target of transport policy: facilitating sustainable mobility for all while reducing radically the number of vehicles on the road, thereby reversing the accumulated impacts of administrative incompetence.

Unfortunately, the government’s objective so far seems to be the precise opposite: making way for more vehicles on the road. This is the only real significance the parking policy-in-waiting or of major transport infrastructure projects in the pipeline which absorb millions of euros. These funds  could easily be used to promote more fruitful objectives.

It should focus on facilitating sustainable mobility for all while reducing vehicle ownership as a policy target would address traffic congestion, parking and air  and noise pollution. An added benefit would be that it would also cost much less to both the state and to the individual. In the long term, as a result of reduced air pollution, we will also have less respiratory illness, consequently reducing both the individual as well as the national health bill. Fewer cars on the road would also encourage more bicycle use and maybe the introduction of more and continuous bicycle lanes in contrast to the intermittent ones currently provided by Transport Malta.

This cannot be done overnight. Having been neglected for the past 50 years or so, it will take quite some time to reverse the dependence on private vehicles nurtured by a public transport system which was allowed to disintegrate. Various policy initiatives can be taken. Both the carrot and the stick have a role in such policy initiatives.

A number of interim measures may need to be introduced until such time as the new public transport provider, Autobuses de Leon, establishes itself firmly. When this is done, it is in everybody’s interest that public transport use is the success it never was to date.

A public transport system has to be both efficient and reliable. To achieve these objectives substantial subsidies are essential. This is the primary reason why the Arriva experiment failed. It was starved of subsidies as a matter of policy and was expected to survive on a relative pittance.  Even on the drawing board, it was clear from day one that the Arriva experiment was doomed to fail.

Public transport is not made up just of the public buses. The monorail initiative currently on the drawing board as well as adequate sea-transport  [servicing primarily Valletta, Sliema and the Three Cities] will also go a long way to reduce th number of  vehicles from our roads.

These are the policies which the government should consider implementing. Will it be bothered?

published in the Malta Independent on Sunday: Sunday 4th January 2015

It-traffiku: l-Gvern jaqbad il-problema minn sormha

 

buttocks 3

 

Meta l-Ministru tat-Trasport Joe Mizzi kien qed jitkellem f’konferenza stampa fir-Rabat qal li kien ser jippreżenta għall-konsiderazzjoni tal-Kabinett dokument ta’ policy dwar il-parking. Dan qalu huwa u jinawgura skema ta’ park and ride fir-Rabat li qed issir b’koordinazzjoni bejn diversi restoranti biex jipprovdu parking għall-klijenti tagħhom.

X’ser ikun fiha din il-policy m’għandix idea, pero’ naħseb li  l-Gvern mhux mill-parking għandu bżonn jibda, iżda min-numru ta’ karozzi fit-triq li jeħtieġ li jonqsu. Mhux policy dwar il-parking hemm bżonn imma policy dwar dawk l-inċentivi li huma neċessarji biex inqas nies jagħmlu użu minn karozzi privati. Hemm ħafna x’jista’ jsir dwar dan, imma s’issa kemm il-Gvern kif ukoll Transport Malta huma siekta dwar dan.

Ir-riforma tat-transport pubbliku għandha bżonn ta’ għajnuna biex tirnexxi, għajnuna li tiġi biss b’inċentivi li jħajru n-nies iwarrbu l-karozzi privati. U la bil-parking u l-anqas bil-proġetti li jixorbu l-miljuni.

Issa x’imiss li jiġri ?

Il-bieraħ il-Kumitat Eżekuttiv tal-PN iddeċieda li tlieta mill-Membri Parlamentari tiegħu: JPO, Franco Debono u Jesmond Mugliette ma jkunux kandidati tiegħu u f’ismu fl-elezzjoni ġenerali li jmiss. Fuq tnejn minnhom (JPO u Jesmond) ġja kien hemm dikjarazzjoni mill-kandidati infushom li ma riedux jerġgħu jkunu kandidati.  It-tielet wieħed, Franco, qal lill-media u riedna nemmnu li hekk kien, li Lawrence Gonzi riedu jerġa’ jkun kandidat. Ħalliha li Gonzi ċaħad dan.

Din tal-kandidaturi m’hi xejn. Kulħadd kien jistenniha għax kienet ovvja. Bħalma kienet ovvja li Austin Gatt kien ser ikun wieħed mill-iżjed li ser jopponi l-kandidatura ta’ Franco, kif l-istess Franco informa lill-media! X’tistenna? Wara l-kritika ħarxa lilu u lill-assistent tiegħu Manwel Delia (avolja kienet ġustifikata) fuq il-froġa tal-Arriva dan kien mistenni. Forsi Franco jirrealizza issa li l-astensjoni fil-vot ta’ sfiduċja dwar Austin Gatt kien żball da parti tiegħu. Għax il-konsegwenza loġika tal-argumenti tiegħu kellha tkun li Austin Gatt kellu jwarrab minn Ministru. Imma għal xi raġuni li s’issa għadni ma fhimtx Franco iddeċieda mod ieħor!

Fl-isfond ta’ dan kollu  Lawrence Gonzi irid li jtemm il-leġislatura sħiħa. Jiġifieri li l-Gvern immexxi minnu jibqa’ jiffunzjona sas-sena d-dieħla. Il-Parlament jista’ jibqa’ jiltaqa’ sad-9 ta’ Mejju 2013 u jekk jagħmel hekk l-iktar tard li tissejjah elezzjoni jista’ jkun is-Sibt ta’ qabel id-9 t’Awissu 2013. Dak il-massimu. Probabilment li Gonzi għandu f’moħħu li jġebbed sa Marzu 2013.

Imma l-mistoqsija hi : ser iwassal s’hemm?

L-aġenda parlamentari li hemm imħejjija għal wara l-vaganzi tas-sajf kif ukoll il-proġetti li jimmaturaw lejn l-aħħar tas-sena u l-bidu tad-dieħla jindikaw li Gonzi u l-PN ser jagħmlu sforz biex iġebbdu kif jistgħu. Imma dan ma jiddependix minnhom biss.

L-ewwel punt li jista’ jeffettwa hu x’ser jiġri mill-fattur RCC. Diġa jidher li JPO ser ikollu d-diffikultajiet. Il-Kummissarju tal-Pulizija, ġustament, qal li m’għandux ikollu x’jaqsam f’materja purament politika. Gordon Pisani hu ostili għal JPO u m’hu ser jgħid jew jagħmel xejn li jista’ jkun ta’ l-iċken ħsara għal Gonzi. Karmenu Vella diġa kixef idejh, u dak li qal jiddependi fuq il-kelma tiegħu kontra l-kelma ta’ RCC. Jibqa’ biss ix-xhieda ta’ Joe Mizzi u John Dalli!

Jiena m’hux qed nistenna li l-Kumitat Eżekuttiv tal-PN joħroġ b’xi kundanna għal RCC meta jidher ċar li l-argument prinċipali  ser ikun dwar il-kuntatti bejn RCC u uffiċjali tal-Gvern ta’ Alfred Sant dwar l-iskorta li kellu RCC minħabba l-attentat kważi fatali li kien seħħ fuq ħajtu fl-Imdina. Dan ta’ l-inqas joħrog minn dak li qal Joe Mizzi tal-Labour u f’dan il-kuntest hi relevanti x-xhieda tal-Kummissarju tal-Pulizija.  Il-kuntatti li qed jurtaw lil JPO probabilment żviluppaw minħabba li l-Gvern ta’ Sant irtira l-iskorta u RCC ħass (ġustament) li din kienet meħtieġa.

Fid-dawl ta’ dan jiena nistenna li l-Kumitat Eżekuttiv tal-PN joħroġ b’eloġju għal RCC u kundanna oħra għal JPO. Dan ikun ifisser li tiħrax il-kampanja pubblika ta’ JPO kontra l-PN u magħquda mar-reazzjonijiet ta’ Franco Debono ifisser li l-ewwel seduti tal-Parlament f’Ottubru jistgħu jkunu determinanti.

Fid-dawl ta’ dan Gonzi jista’ jikkunsidra li jxolji immedjatament biex jevita konfront ieħor. Bosta qed jgħidulu biex jagħmel hekk, imma jidher daqstant ieħor ċar li ser jibqa’ jirresisti sakemm ma jkollux triq oħra. Sakemm ikun inevitabbli li jwarrab.

Sakemm jibqa’ imqar l-iċken tama li jista’ jibqa’ għaddej fil-Parlament naħseb li ser jibqa’ mkaħħal mas-siġġu f’Kastilja.