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MaltaToday 25 January 2023 MIDWEEK

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16 maltatoday | WEDNESDAY • 25 JANUARY 2023 NEWS ACROSS 1) Rice with spice 6) Canned fare since 1937 10) Take-out shop 14) Florida citrus city 15) Mata_ 16) Libidinous god 17) Shaving mishaps 19) Musical Simone 20) Place for a patch 21) Word on a dollar 22) Like a banjo 24) Great in scope 26) It may be rigged 27) Madison Square Garden team 32) Dean Martin song sub - ject 34) Argus' many 35) Derby or bowler 36) McEntire sitcom 37) Bond and Smart, for two 39) Timbuktu's land 40) Having four sharps 41) Blueprint detail, briefly 42) Home run, in slang 43) Trade school subject 47) Send to the canvas 48) Expensive wrap 49) London's Downing, e.g. 52) Swab's implement 53) Flapjack-selling chain 57) Fictional sleuth Charlie 58) Ones forbidden to emi - grate from the USSR 61) Still-life vessels 62) Codebreaker Turing 63) City on the Seine 64) Trombone accessory 65) Shopper's reminder 66) Sugary DOWN 1) Popular barbecue meat 2) Words of confidence 3) Veg out 4) Bum soother 5) A long way off 6) Japanese religion 7) Walk nervously 8) Object of Indiana Jones' quest 9) Bloopers 10) Alaskan national park 11) Cork's land, to poets 12) Over the limit 13) Words to an old chap 18) Apt to snoop 23) Takes the gold 25) Leave speechless 26) ___ terrier (dog breed) 27) "Check" 28) Modern composer Steve 29) Chews the fat 30) Crinkly veggie 31) Tend to the sauce 32) Diva's delivery 33) Diner handout 37) Like the colors of the rainbow 38) Eat like a chicken 39) Short, heavy woolen coat 41) Hook's sidekick 42) Sardine can material 44) Danish seaport 45) Dollar total 46) Playful bites 49) Pond gunk 50) NO __ TRAFFIC 51) Go on a tirade 52) Advanced degs. for curators 54) Bring on board 55) Any of Steinbeck's Joads 56) Soft "Hey you!" 59) One of football's Man - nings 60) Mini-albums, for short F Solution to last week's crossword The answers to today's crossword will be published in next week's Midweek edition Weather Partly cloudy Visibility Good Wind Variable force 2 or 3 at first, becoming West Northwest and then becoming force 3 or 4 by late morning TODAY TOMORROW Crossword WEATHER PARTLY CLOUDY POSSIBLE SHOWERS 18 0 / 11 0 17 0 / 13 0 FEELS LIKE 18 0 FEELS LIKE 17 0 KURT SANSONE THE fast ferry service between Valletta and Mġarr was hailed as a 'key work-life balance meas- ure' by the Prime Minister when it was inaugurated in June 2021. Two private operators were to offer 45-minute trips that would cut two hours of travel time for Gozitans working or studying in Malta. But just 18 months into the ser- vice, both companies had to cut down on trips, citing lack of pa- tronage that made the operation financially unviable. The government has now agreed to step in and subsidise the service. This is not a new story but the numbers published today by the National Statistics Office paint a bleak picture of the service. Between June and December 2021, the fast ferries operated just over 8,000 trips and carried 364,672 passengers. Last year, which was the first full year of operations, the fast ferry opera- tors ran fewer trips but carried 476,180 passengers. A breakdown of the numbers shows that the service had a promising start in the first half of the year with almost 3,200 trips and 194,000 passengers. However, the problems started with the summer months. The NSO said the fast ferry opera- tors carried out 2,975 trips in the second half of 2022, a drastic de- cline of almost 4,000 trips when compared to the same period in 2021. This decrease in trips led to almost 40,000 fewer passengers being carried between July and December. The statistics paint a dire pic- ture. In the fourth quarter of 2022 only 680 fast ferry trips were carried out as operators formed a cartel by setting the same prices and allowing passen- gers to interchange between the two competitors. The schedule was also drastically curtailed. The fast ferry service only car- ries foot passengers and was a welcome addition to Gozitan workers and students based in Valletta or its immediate envi- rons. But financial feasibility contin- ues to dog the service as it had many years ago when another attempt by the Gozo Channel to operate a catamaran service be- tween Mġarr and Pietà was also abandoned. Meanwhile, the NSO figures show that in 2022 the Gozo Channel operated 34,582 trips between Ċirkewwa and Mġarr, carrying 1.9 million vehicles and 5.2 million passengers. The number of passengers car- ried increased by 1.1 million, a 28% increase. Both passenger and vehicle traffic originating from Ċirkew- wa was busiest on Fridays and Saturdays. On the other hand, from the Mġarr terminal, passenger traffic was highest on Sundays and Sat- urdays, while the highest num- ber of vehicles were recorded on Sundays and Mondays. Fast ferries only made 680 trips in last three months of 2022

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