Every few months, the issue of whether our country shall implement a mass transportation system arises, fuelling a hotly contested debate of how, when, and after all if, this project shall come to fruition.
This debate has now come to a head, as the government has recently published its vision for a metro. An international engineering firm, ARUP, was commissions to draw up the preliminary designs for this project, which have now been published in order to trigger a process of public consultation.
In this instance, as this government tends to operate, excels when it comes to the PR and Marketing factors but leaves much to be desired in the technical side. Obviously, as already mentioned, we are currently in a process of public consultation, so the following points are only meant to address shortcomings found in the currently proposed layout.
First of all, the proposal put forward so far only provides basic information and its sole aim is to sell the idea rather than explain the implications. The studies commissioned must be the determining factor of whether or not this project goes ahead, rather than the marketing brochure published by the authorities. It did take quite some insistance from the Opposition for the Government to publish these studies, thus providing the public with some of the necessary information to formulate an informed opinion. However, it is incomprehendable how despite government shifting the weight onto the public in the form of a public consultation, no environmental impact assessment and no geotechnical study have been carried out as of yet with regards to this project.
Secondly, this project, in its currently proposed form, falls short of providing a service to each and every Maltese citizen. Gozo, Mellieha, most of St Paul's Bay, Mgarr, Siggiewi, Żebbuġ, Rabat, Birżebbuġa, Żurrieq, Qrendi, Ħal Safi, Kirkop, Imqabba, Marsaxlokk, Marsaskala, Żejtun, Għaxaq and Xgħajra were all excluded, apart from significant employment nodes such as the Freeport and Smartcity. While I do understand the issue of the proposed metro not being able to reach every nook and cranny of these islands, I do believe that it is imperative that the absolute maximum amount of people are provided with a service which improves their standard of living. Afterall, the taxpayers' money utilised for this project shall not come only from the places which are included in the project.
The most glaring issue that is staring us in the face is much more alarming, and that is the envisioned take up of land for the construction of high rise buildings, on the sites where the metro stations are being proposed. One must keep in mind that the stations must be placed in strategic areas, thus required the use of valuable and expensive land. A closer look of the artists' impressions put forward by the authorities reveal that most of these sites shall not include simply an underground station, but also a number of highrises, whose purpose is so far not clear. Common logic dictates that an underground station does not require a 22 storey building overhead, as being proposed in Pembroke. Therefore, I urge all the relevant authorities to make every party's plans and intentions clear as the public deserved to know what is truly in store.
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