Editorial: Creating better, more reliable links between Malta and Gozo

Last Updated on Thursday, 25 April, 2024 at 3:24 pm by Andre Camilleri

The Gozo Business Chamber has made its position clear about transport services between Malta and the sister island.

It remains in favour of a permanent link – more of a tunnel, than a bridge – but the GBC’s CEO Daniel Borg lamented in an interview with this media house that there was never really a political will, from either side, to carry the project forward.

It has been more than 50 years since the idea was first floated, and successive governments have often made it a point to bring the subject up, raising the expectations and hopes of all those who see this as a necessity. The Labour government under Robert Abela was the latest to mention the topic, ordering some preliminary studies, only to say later that having a permanent link is not a priority, at least for now, and that the idea has been shelved.

Again, one may add.

Problems in the transportation system between the two islands remain, and in the same interview Borg made an important statement – if a permanent link, at least for now, is not being contemplated, then there should be a heavy investment in the facilities available.

The facilities include the vessels that carry thousands of passengers each day, as well as the two ports and terminals at either side of the journey – Cirkewwa and Mgarr.

Borg highlighted that three of the vessels that are being use are now more than 20 years old, while a fourth has been leased, and is used sparingly. The government should start planning for the long term, thinking of having new, modern vessels as well as improving the amenities. He also strongly hinted that the government should also think of increasing the number of vessels that ply the channel, given that the number of travellers and cars continues to increase.

The most common problem brought up by people who frequently use the service is delays, which are compounded when weather conditions are not ideal and during weekends, when the volume of traffic is greater than normal, particularly during the summer days or when there is a holiday close to the weekend. Travellers have often had to wait hours before making the trip, especially when one of the ships is not in service.

Accessibility should be improved not only for leisure travellers, including Maltese people who have property in Gozo and frequently spend their free time times, but also for business reasons. Gozo businesses need better services to limit the problems related to double insularity as much as possible.

Again, this not only means improving cargo services between the two islands, but also creating a system which makes it easier for Gozo businessmen to travel. Borg mentioned, for example, that the fast ferry service linking Mgarr to Valletta needs to become more reliable. The winter schedule, for example, sometimes has four-hour gaps in between trips, and this is a great inconvenience to businessmen.

With no permanent link on the horizon, the government should give attention to transport issues between Malta and Gozo and try to find ways to make them better.

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