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MALTATODAY 3 October 2021

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2 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 3 OCTOBER 2021 NEWS The three lines The emerging underground light metro network includes three lines, connecting at 3 inter- change locations allowing trans- fer between the different lines Red Line - Naxxar to Pembroke/ Sliema The Red Line is approximately 16 kilometres long and includes a total of 11 stations. The Red Line is served directly by a depot at Ta' Qali and the proposed station here can also serve as a part time station during events at the National Stadium. The Red Line serves the densest areas within the Principal Urban Area where current travel demands are highest. The Red Line includes two major interchange points; the first at Birkirkara where the Red Line connects with the Green Line (serving Marsa, Floriana, Valletta, etc.), and the second at the Mater Dei Hospital where the Red Line connects with the Blue Line (serving Malta International Airport, Paola, Cospicua, etc.). Blue Line - Mater Dei to Cospicua/ Airport The Blue Line is approximately 12.5 kilometres long and includes a total of 9 stations and includes a spur to serve Malta International Airport. The Marsa station has the potential to become a major transit-oriented development zone which could be centred on the light metro station. The alignment of the Blue Line under the emerging preferred option travels from Fgura to Zabbar to Cospicua, which differs slightly from that analysed under the option assessment stage, as the rail alignment contained within the preferred route was shorter (and therefore less expensive) than travelling from Fgura to Cospicua to Zabbar. Green Line - Birkirkara to Valletta The Green Line is approximately 7 kilometres and includes 6 stations. The Green Line completes the connectivity between the lines within the central part of the Principal Urban Area allowing for greater system flexibility. The Green Line serves the historic quarters of Valletta and Floriana and the development zone of Mriehel. As with the other lines, the Green Line has two interchange nodes; the Birkirkara station area location connecting with the red line, and the Marsa station area connecting with the blue line. Possible Northern Extension The network development allows for the extension of the route towards Bugibba from the proposed light metro station in Naxxar to cater for the strong demand from the northern part of the island. The extension of the northern line is envisaged to be primarily over ground and would serve a rail station on the outskirts of Bugibba. The Bugibba station would include a park and ride site along with set down areas for regional and local bus services, these services will connect with Mellieha, Cirkewwa and onwards to Gozo. LUKE VELLA PRIME Minister Robert Abela (pictured) and Transport Min- ister Ian Borg yesterday present- ed the outline of a study into the feasibility of an underground transport system in Malta. In a presentation by Transport Malta chairman Joseph Bugeja, the study proposes a three-line underground system with 25 stops. It is estimated to cost around €6.25 billion and works be spanned over a period of 15-20 years. The first phase of the project would see the construction of the first, northern line, costing some €3.9 billion and would take between five and eight years to be completed. Arup, which prepared the study, billed the metro system as being able to compete strongly against the private car in attract- ing users and facilitating travel demands. The proposed network in- cludes for three lines overlap- ping at three interchange loca- tions allowing transfer between the different lines. These would serve the majority of a 'Principal Urban Area', and combine with other transport systems, a reconfigured bus net- work, as well as ferries and park and rides. "A number of systems were considered, however the one that is most appropriate, affordable and feasible was chosen," said Transport Malta chairman and CEO Joseph Bugeja. Bugeja did acknowledge a met- ro system would present various geo-physical challenges. Arup's William McDade said various alternatives had been studied, but the underground light metro was found to be the most feasible option, although it does come at a higher cost and longer delivery time. "Although Malta has recently overhauled the road infrastructure system, the capacity of the road network is not sufficient to cater for the rate of growth," McDade said, warning that a metro system would present the challenge of disposing the excavated rock and said that a number of loca- tions have been assessed for land reclamation. Prime Minister Robert Abela called for "a realist discussion". "A project like this cost bil- lions, but it is a reality that such a project would occur over four legislatures," Abela said, and re- ferred to the increased demand for land reclamation as an op- portunity to turn the generated waste into new landmass. "In the present it does not make sense for Gozo to be connected, as for it to be fiscally feasible, it would require 50,000 more peo- ple […] Through the fast ferry we have sent a strong message that Gozo should not remain at the periphery," said Abela. Transport Minister Ian Borg sounded a cautious tone in his speech, calling for "a dose of re- ality of what it means for a coun- try to invest in a mass transport system [...] justifying such a large expense". He added that a number of questions will arise on the pro- posal, including the elevat- ed cost and whether better or cheaper alternatives exist. Land reclamation The potential reuse of excavat- ed limestone will have to be con- sidered if the metro system goes ahead as mooted. As a substantial amount of rock will be generated due to the excavation of station caverns and tunnels, the potential for reuse of excavated rock will be a significant consideration for this project. It is anticipated that the excavated material can be used as general fill and for potential reclamation projects. By way of comparison a similar land reclamation project formed part of the construction of Co- penhagen's Cityringen project. Estimated excavation volumes are 5.8 million tonnes for the first phase, 3 million tonnes for the second phase, and a million tonnes for the last phase, for a total of 9.8 million tonnes. Minister sounds cautious note on ambitious metro project

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