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MALTATODAY 6 December 2020 new

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2 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 6 DECEMBER 2020 NEWS Delivery fee of just €1 per day for orders up to 5 newspapers per address To subscribe 1. Email us your choice of newspapers, recipient's name, address, contact number to production 2. Forward cheques payable to Miller Distributors Ltd on address: Miller House, Airport Way, Tarxien Road, Luqa LQA1814 Queries on other news- papers and magazines, production@ maltatoday Same-day delivery of your favourite Sunday newspaper Monday-Friday MaltaToday Midweek • €1 BusinessToday • €1.50 Sunday MaltaToday • €1.95 ILLUM • €1.25 Support your favourite newspaper with a subscription KURT SANSONE FOUR preliminary bids for the Gozo-Malta tunnel received five months ago are still being analysed by an evaluation com- mittee, Infrastructure Malta has said. The roads agency could not give a timeline by when the eval- uation was expected to close but the current stage does not involve technical details on the proposed projects. Two companies and two con- sortiums had responded to an invitation by Infrastructure Malta for prospective bidders to provide information that demonstrates their experience in similar tunnel developments. The four interested compa- nies are an Italian firm; a Mal- tese company with its primary shareholders being the Chetcu- tis of the Hugo's entertainment chain; a consortium made up of Chinese, Dutch and Turkish companies; and a consortium of French, Turkish, UK and Japa- nese companies. Known as the pre-qualification questionnaire stage, bidders are currently being assessed on their technical capability and financial resources. It is only after this evaluation is concluded that successful bid- ders will qualify to the second stage, where they will present detailed technical plans of the tunnel structure and how the project will be implemented, op- erated and maintained. Infrastructure Malta said that in this phase of the process, each participant will be invited to di- alogue meetings to explain their proposal to the evaluation team. However, it could not give a timeline for the process. "This second stage will commence as soon as the ongoing evaluation of the pre-qualification ques- tionnaire submissions is com- pleted," a spokesperson for the agency said. Companies that pass the sec- ond phase will then be invited to provide a "best and final offer" for the project. "This will include a detailed technical and financial offer based on the solution proposed in the previous stage. The selec- tion team will then identify and recommend the best offer based on pre-established criteria," the spokesperson said. He added that in parallel with this selection process, a team of independent experts approved by the planning and environ- mental authorities are conduct- ing an environmental impact assessment of the proposed pro- ject. But the EIA can only be con- cluded after the proposed tunnel plans are confirmed following the procurement process. It is only then that Infrastruc- ture Malta will submit a de- velopment application to the Planning Authority, the spokes- person said. The Gozo-Malta tunnel pro- ject includes the development of a 14-kilometre subsea road link between the two islands. Ac- cording to Infrastructure Malta the road will accommodate two vehicle lanes, one in each direc- tion and a wide central buffer with additional space for emer- gency vehicles. The agency has so far con- ducted nine studies, including preliminary geophysical and ge- ological investigations based on land and seabed core samples extracted along the proposed tunnel route. The tunnel is a government electoral pledge but it remains unclear whether a formal plan- ning application will be filed in time before the next general election. The project received bi-partisan backing in parlia- ment last year. It has been a long-held Gozitan dream for a permanent link with Malta with the first concrete studies in the 1970s dismissing the project as unfeasible. Environmentalists have raised concerns about the impact the project could have on either side of the tunnel portals, apart from the pressure it will create in Gozo for more development. Questions have also been raised on the amount of excava- tion waste that will be generated. Nationalist Party leader Ber- nard Grech on Sunday floated the idea of holding a referendum among Gozitans after all tunnel studies are concluded. This proposal was shot down by the Gozo Business Chamber that has been clamouring for a permanent connection between the islands. It's still a long way to the Gozo-Malta tunnel

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