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MALTATODAY 27 March 2022

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15 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 27 MARCH 2022 NEWS JAMES DEBONO MASS transport systems like underground 'metro' systems, trams or rap- id bus transits may be the backbone of a long- term solution for Malta's search for a successful mass mobility system. But one factor unites all these proposals for a mass public transport system: the challenge of private transport and the traffic that slows down any efficient public trans- port. Dr Suzanne Maas, an expert on sustainable mobility and Friends of the Earth Malta's climate coordinator says there is no time to waste before any new transportation project: Malta's immedi- ate needs are dedicated bus lanes. "Instead of politi- cizing the choice for mass-transport solutions by framing it as a choice between a metro or a tram, we need an open, serious and informed de- cision-making process on which sustainable mobil- ity modes can deliver the quickest road away from fossil-fuel based private car transport, towards clean and efficient mobil- ity solutions," Maas told MaltaToday. She was referring to Labour's proposal for a €6 billion underground metro system, and the Nationalist Party's al- ternative for a €3 billion trackless tram, both pro- posals the hallmark of the two parties' transport manifestos. But while Labour's project would entail decades of under- ground construction, the PN's proposal requires a haircut on recently ex- panded motorways for a high-speed tram lane. Maas however says such politicised proposals, with voters inevitably placing party allegiance over proper evaluation of such transport systems, ignore the need for an ef- ficient and effective solu- tions in the short-term. "To do this Malta needs to re-allocate space for dedicated bus lanes," Maas says. "Buses on a dedicated lane can transport up to "Buses on a dedicated lane can transport up to 100 times as many people as the same lane used by private cars" Rather than focusing on making buses free for all, efforts to promote uptake of public transport should focus on improving reliability of the service. So speed, and efficiency are key, expert Suzanne Maas says Tram or metro? No, the dedicated bus-lane... 100 times as many people as the same lane used by private cars. "This also needs to be combined with invest- ment in multi-modal mo- bility, by creating seam- less connections with ferries, and safe bicycle and walking infrastruc- ture, to start, continue or complete a journey." Arguably, any mass-transport solution – bus rapid transit, trams, metros, or even a combi- nation of all – can even- tually "form the backbone of the future mobility sys- tem in Malta". But such choices require long-term studies. "In light of the dire situation on the Maltese roads, in terms of congestion, pollution and road safe- ty issues, we believe it is of utmost importance to study and plan long-term for sustainable mobility for the Maltese Islands." And Malta cannot af- ford to be side-tracked with promises for solu- tions far in the future. "We have no time to lose. The road-widening pro- jects of the past few years have gobbled up precious agricultural land and public space, but have not managed to resolve the traffic issue. "Recent events show us that a single disruption to the road network – an ac- cident or road closure – almost grinds the entire country to a halt, with se- rious impacts on people's mental well-being and the country's economy." Land transport in Malta remains one of the major sources of carbon emis- sions in Malta – around 40% of national CO2 emissions – which makes decarbonisation in the transport sector extreme- ly urgent. Rather than focusing on making public transport free for all, Maas says, efforts to promote up- take of public transport should focus on improv- ing the reliability of the service. So speed, and efficiency of bus transport is the key – not cost. "This is the re- al barrier to shift to pub- lic transport." Suzanne Maas. Photo: Mandy Briffa

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