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MALTATODAY 22 January 2023

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2 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 22 JANUARY 2023 NEWS Thank you... for having bought this newspaper The good news is that we're not raising the price of our newspaper We know times are still hard, but we have pledged to keep giving our readers quality news they deserve, without making you pay more for it. So thank you, for making it your MaltaToday Support your favourite newspaper with a special offer on online PDF subscriptions. Visit or scan the QR code Subscriptions can be done online on Same-day delivery at €1 for orders up to 5 newspapers per address. Subscribe from €1.15 a week Same-day print delivery from Miller Distributors mt MATTHEW VELLA THE independent politician Arnold Cassola has said that a WhatsApp message reveals a communication between the Tumas magnate Yorgen Fenech – the alleged master- mind in the Caruana Galizia assassination – with the roads agency over the prospective Mrieħel underpass. Cassola said the message, sent to him by an anonyous whistle- blower, shows Fenech querying former Infrastructure Malta boss Fredrick Azzopardi about the controversial underpass that was added to the Central Link project. The 27 May, 2019 text, Cas- sola says, shows Fenech ask- ing Azzopari: "Do you have anything on the Mrieħel junc- tion?" (Għandek xi ħjiel fuq il-Junction tal-Mrieħel?); to which Azzopardi replies that William Lewis, also a Labour Party official, was working on the project and its traffic im- pact assessment ("Qed jaħdem fuqha William Lewis għax qed isir xi TIA għal Mrieħel kollu minnu wkoll") Lewis is Labour's organisa- tional secretary, whose com- pany Crowdnet was awarded a consultancy on the Central Link project by direct order. "Two months later in July 2019, the Central Link Project was approved by the Planning Authority... without any men- tion at all of the Mriehel Un- derpass," Cassola said. The Mrieħel Underpass facil- itates access to the Tumas-Ga- san high-rise project Quad in the Mrieħel business district. "Plans to build it were on- ly made public in November 2020, a year and a half after the WhatsApp exchange be- tween Fenech and Azzopardi. The Mrieħel Underpass, which then-minister Ian Borg had stated would come at zero add- ed cost, ended up costing the taxpayer an extra €5 million." Transport Malta, the trans- port regulator, had issued its clearance for the Mrieħel Quad development on condition that the developers contribute fi- nancially to the proposed road- works. In its assessment of traffic studies in 2015, the Planning Authority's Transport Plan- ning Unit warned that if the Gasan and Tumas towers are approved, "further develop- ment at the Industrial Estate would be limited without fur- ther upgrading of the infra- structure", recommending an Mrieħel Regeneration Master Plan for the whole area, prior to further assessment of the transport implications of this particular proposal. But the project was still ap- proved in the absence of a mas- terplan. The TPU warned that the new junction "needs to be ac- ceptable from an environmen- tal point of view since this will be taking up fresh ODZ land." Indeed, earlier plans for new junctions in the area were shunned by Transport Malta due to the land expropriations required. Traffic studies for the Gasan and Tumas towers presented in 2015 had warned of gridlock without an overpass linking the Dawret l-Imrieħel bypass and Triq in-Negozju. The studies had established that the two main junctions in the area were already failing and the situa- tion was set to aggravate due to "added developments that arise from the designation of the ar- ea for tall buildings". "Traffic will, therefore, need be siphoned off these junctions to a new junction," the studies warned. The immediate solution for the extra traffic created by the Tumas and Gasan project con- sisted of an underpass, linking the northbound Dawret L-Im- rieħel carriageway with Triq l-Intornjatur. But studies also refer to the construction of an overpass, linking the northbound Daw- ret l-Imrieħel carriageway with Triq in-Negozju to address the increase in traffic as a result of the transformation of Mrieħel into a high-rise zone. To avert gridlock, transport studies for then Quad Tow- ers, proposed siphoning traf- fic off existing junctions to a new junction. The study rec- ommended a new part-signal- ised junction (referred to as Junction X) but this was not deemed acceptable as it would have "required extensive land expropriation". Instead, Transport Malta sug- gested an underpass to link the northbound Dawret L-Imrieħel carriageway with Triq l-Intorn- jatur (only for inbound traffic from the south). This option still would result in the uptake of "fresh ODZ land". According to the study this link should serve "as an entry to, as well as an exit from the eastern part of l-Imrieħel. This would complement the Triq l-Imdina northbound exit." The Transport Planning Unit had even made the Quad Tow- ers project's approval condi- tional on the development of both the underpass between Dawret l-Imrieħel and Triq l-Intonjatur and the devel- opment of a grade-separated junction between Dawret l-Im- rieħel and Triq in-Negozju. In the report submitted on 15 October 2015, the TPU con- cluded that "it is essential that the applicant reaches agree- ment with Transport Malta" which, "if required", includes a contribution for the imple- mentation of the proposed measures. 'Yorgen Fenech aware of Mriehel underpass before Central Link approval' Text message to roads boss shows Tumas magnate aware of plans before Central Link approval

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