Lets consider the alternatives to a tunnel between the islands

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Lets consider the alternatives to a tunnel between the islandsReaders Letter – “We often have heated arguments when for instance in our village square, we meet on the ‘Zuntier.’

Yesterday evening a man fired off a discussion by this opening statement, ‘my daughter left work at 3.00pm and got to Cirkewwa an hour later only to find a massive queue in front of her and could only board the 6.00pm ferry.

Creating a tunnel, he said will solve that problem. Others did not agree and we kept on arguing till twilight. The majority ruled that the main problem is of Gozitans working and studying in Malta. A huge % of them chose to live in Malta and doing this they are creating a geriatric community in Gozo.

Simon proposed to populate Gozo by Maltese people. I would not dare to repeat the comments uttered on this bright idea!

A wise elderly person in our Piazza cluster said that if the tunnel is built many students will still stay in Malta. Asked why he thought so, he replied. ‘Well many would not be able to go by car because they would not find a parking space in Malta, so the Tunnel is not viable for them and those who would be able to drive, the drive will take hours. There will be a rush hour in the tunnel as in any other road.’

Imagine when the students end classes, many of them will congregate and go for the tunnel at the same time, thus creating a slow entrance and even a queue even if they have a prepaid magnetic card payment system which will not need them to stop and insert their ticket into a slot. This will also happen with Gozitan workers as they conclude their day roughly on the same hour.

At present when a ferry unloads its carriage cargo there is an unbreakable snake of cars from Mgarr to Victoria. Side road traffic usually has to wait till all cars proceed to Victoria so that they can exit on the main road. With the Tunnel, there will be a very long long uninterrupted snake and the side roads and roundabouts are blocked for hours at end.

Apart from Gozitans returning home after a day’s work or study, there are the Maltese who too would like to go to Gozo for a meal or drink and they also would roughly travel to Gozo, after work, after having a shower, pick up their family and head on to the tunnel.

We are talking of maybe 4 hours-time window when these Maltese visitors would decide to go to Gozo in which many Gozitans would also use that same window of time and God help us then!

If the problem is Gozitan workers and students then the best option is to build a fast tram, in the water, over or under the sea bed, land or hill and country side which will take and bring back these Gozitan pedestrians in the shortest time possible and here we are talking of a 24 hr. tram service which will take around 30m to complete the trip from Valletta to say; the outskirts of Victoria Gozo (maybe near Ta’ Xhajma).

One of the carriages would be equipped like an ambulance and sick people can also be transferred in this way. The pickup Ambulance would be able to park right up to the carriage.

Most of the Gozitans will return to Gozo each day as the trip is relatively short and therefore no need to wake up so early each morning. This will also solve the geriatric situation.

The Tram station will have an ample parking for the Gozitan to park his or her car from where they are able to go home to various directions. There could also be inexpensive taxi tariffs and buses for Victoria terminal, especially for tourists.

Maltese tourists can continue to do their crossings in their cars on the ferry. No problem there! They have plenty of time to do so.

But what could be done ‘NOW’ for our friend’s daughter who after a day on the job, had to wait for 2 hrs. at Cirkewwa queueing behind joy riders and visitors who travel in style in their AC rentals? (Massive air polluting is carried on in Cirkewwa waiting for the ferry with car running, to use their AC)

Our wise elderly companion came up with this proposition. He presented the different types of travellers by automobiles. You have Gozitan workers and students, there are hospital ambulances and coaches, tradesmen, big lorries with supplies such as gas and drinks and there are Maltese visitors and tourists.

We have to first categorise and then prioritise. We did classify the groups and now we can rank the groups. The most important are the hospital vehicles, rescue and anything which has to do with health emergencies. These, in fact, have the faculty to just drive ahead and jump the queue. This is fair and correct.

Can this be extended to our second most important group? The Gozitan work force and the students? Already they (with all Gozitans and Maltese with a (G) I.D.) enjoy a discount, also fair and just, but wouldn’t it be also fair to help them get home earlier to spend time with their loved ones before they have to go back to work in Malta the next day?

While the Maltese have much more than the Gozitan citizen in their fingertips, as, place of work, offices, shops and so on, the Gozitan has to spend many hours of their life in travelling through and forth between the islands.

Isn’t it fair to concede a secure bar coded card to Gozitan workers who when they get to Cirkewwa (or even Mgarr) they will have precedence over all other travellers and go to a special line-up track which will load on the ferry first?

Strict surveillance and control on these cards should be taken and harsh punishments on those who misuse them. We are talking of Gozitan workers and students and not of Gozitans. Otherwise, the entire world will get a (G) I.D Card.

Employer and Dean of University are to issue a document which dictates that his employee and/or student is actively working or studying in Malta and he or she is the owner of a car and with Licence plates etc.

We all agreed that it is rational to aid these special commuters to get them home as fast as humanly possible until we have the tunnel and the tram.

Gozo Channel does not lack brains behind its administration and now with a very open minded and great hearted Minister, things will surely get better.

My friend said that if this came to be and my daughter would have come home 2 hrs. earlier our life would be so much more dignified. We hate that she has to go to Malta but better there than immigrate to a far country like my parents had to do!”

Anthony Zammit,


Photograph by Alain Salvary

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    20 Responses

    1. Mario Gauci says:

      The best solution, in my opinion, is to diversify the harbours used by the ferries. Sa Maison is ideal for cargo and for all those people who work in the inner harbour area. Just increase the fleet, the trips and remove the monopoly.

      • Stephen Mifsud says:

        I perfectly agree with Mario Gauci. This is the best solution for Gozitan workers and students based at Sliema/Pieta/Valletta area, for the tourists who are mostly based at Sliema/St.Julians and for the students where San Maison is just 1-2 km away from the college and the University. For students, a shuttle from San Maison to University would be ideal.

        If Gozo becomes populated as in Malta, the current roads would not support the traffic influx (we see this when Maltese come in loads for certain feasts) and the natural impact and tranquility of this island is lost and will not make it special anymore.

        Adopting a better ferry sytem requires little effort and must be tried before reverting to more drastic permanent connections like Tram / Tunnel / Bridge. Well said Mario!

    2. tamwortherry says:

      I do not even want to think about a Tunnel or Bridge, after experiencing the Santa Marija gridlock in Gozo earlier this month. could you put up with that every day.

      I hope I would not be out of order suggesting a dedicated Ferry,leaving at 6am on the dot direct to Valletta taking 800 passengers and 150 cars off the road,and freeing up the traffic on the Malta side. I believe the journey time would be about one hour and thirty minutes,and the return journey could be fortyfive minutes later carrying the heavy trucks to Gozo. Maybe worth a thought.

    3. anthony zammit says:

      I just had a phone call from a dear friend who read this contribution. AND!!! He commented about the students, specifically University students. He is of the strong opinion that Gozitan Students should not come to Gozo, even on Weekends. If they are to form themselves and become real University Students and real men and women, they should go through the process of leaving their nest and share a flat with others from other disciplines, go to work in a part time job, mixing with non-University students and non-academic people. Even stop bringing their laundry for their mother! Stop taking a stock of homemade pies to Malta on Mondays and learn to do everything by themselves. This is a golden opportunity for them to become mature, independent and whole.

      Then he reminded me of the Catamaran. Whilst the ferry ticket was 15c plus 25c for the bus, many preferred to pay Lm1.00 and use the Catamaran which took them to Valletta. There was even a time that it did a Pit Stop in Sliema. Not only was it full on each and every trip, but you would not get on if you do not book 3 days ahead.

      I ask, why did this service stop? Guess of politics. Things get done if only one can dip his finger in the stew! Not only that but huge lorries could be removed from the already jam-packed road all the way to Cirkewwa by re-introducing a ferry service from Sa Maison, from the area we knew it as ‘Tal Milorda’. (a corruption and feminisation of My Lord, since it was owned by an English Lady.) We know that the fast ferry is promised to us. Hopefully it will do different stops in Malta like St. Paul’s Bay, Sliema, and other bays so that we can elevate traffic from many roads by taking travellers near to their destination. My friend said ‘One does not connect islands but cities. You do not travel from one point to the nearest point but you take people from one town to another.

    4. Virginia C. says:

      As i’m a tourist nowadays, but in the very next future I’ll become a gozo citizen (that will work in Malta), I warmly suggest for pedestrians some fast catamarans, early in the morning, but also during the day. Then once in Valletta You can easily take the buses to go to work.

      I think that in this way is more easy to manage the long waiting queue at Cirkewwa. I mean, Cirkewwa ferry for the cars, fast catamarans for pedestrian, motorbikes and bikes.

      I know that from November this service will start working, but why not to improve the fast ferries/catamarans with 2/3/4 more in a day?

      An not only to Valletta, but also to San Pawl Bay, Sliema, Birzebuggia etcc… like a bus service on the water.
      my personal opinion.



    5. Lino DeBono says:

      It is in my view dangerous, ludicrous and discriminatory for even to suggest anyone whether Gozitan or Maltese to jump or have privilege in any queue jumping for the Gozo Channel crossing. The quote of “All Men/Women are born equal comes to mind. The future lays in a Tunnel is between the Islands connectivity for our present and future means. I do believe that the future for our Islands transport traffic system is to start be implementing and creating an Underground Railway System similar to other cosmopolitan cities around the world.

      Vehicles are increasing on a daily basis creating an unbearable situation all over the Islands were so many lost working hours will be lost by travelling time consumption. Therefore Government/s have and must put forward their think tank policy makers in initiating this way forward. Time lost is money lost.

      I for one will be taking the Tube Railway System if this could get me from Gozo to Malta. Faster – cheaper and make up for lost time as at present. How many other people around and in our Islands would not prefer this kind of system? Cars will be in lesser numbers on our streets and the citizen accommodated better and faster.
      How say YOU?

      • Stephen Mifsud says:

        Lino, would you consider that a permanent link will cause more ‘rich’ people (discriminatory rich vs poor) to build holiday apartments in Gozo or even apartments for renting (= business, not own residence) which finally lead to the detriment of the countryside, quietness and non-populated advantages that Gozo has over mainland Malta?

        If Gozo becomes densely populated, then what would make it special from Malta for the eye of tourists and local holiday makers? I would give efficient fast-ferry system a try first and leave Gozo branded as an eco-island to relax from busy and polluted Malta.

    6. Lino DeBono says:

      Stephen, who knows what the future holds. In everything new there will be a challenge, but one never knows until it’s done. One has to take the good with the bad. What is certain by having a tunnel is the numerous opportunities for Gozitans to have job and studies numerous opportunities which at present are sadly lacking.

      12% from University qualifiers are Gozitans, which is a very high percentage wise. This youth group has no future in Gozo as far as jobs go. This has always been so. So if one amalgamate through long years the opportunities lost in ever having high level jobs in Gozo for the Gozitan brain drain, it says quite a lot.

      If one review Gozo history, one discover that all Gozitans who made a name for themselves, had to leave Gozo and settle in Malta.

      Perhaps – maybe – by a tunnel investment this exodus from Gozo of our brain drain will lessen to a large extent.
      In my personal view, a fast ferry service will not solve this problem.

    7. Anthony Bonnici says:

      I agree 100% with a tunnel for a tram or underground train which will end up in Valletta. I am sure that the students will not travel to Gozo everyday as they do not have time to lose on their studies, as it will still take some time to travel to Gozo. Furthermore, I am sure that most of them will prefer the life in Malta then the quiet life in Gozo. With this system of underground railway, businessman can easily travel between the islands for their work. The Maltese going for a tranquil holiday in Gozo can enjoy the 25 minute trip by sea, which makes one can enjoy on going to his holiday on the tranquil island. This sea trip between the islands makes one feel that he is changing to another world.

      In this way I think that we can satisfy both opinions of travel between the islands.n

    8. Sam says:

      No bridge or tunnel will be good as the road infrastructure cannot support either. Both are also a red light for terrorists. Given the level of driving on the islands an accident or fire could be catastrophic on either structure. Creating new ferry ports for passengers direct to Valletta and other parts of the islands would deal with tourists and those who wish to travel without vehicles. This would help alleviate the dangerously over filled buses and avoid people being left at bus stops because buses are overcrowded whilst creating more space for vehicular traffic on car ferries .More ferries and ports direct to hotspot areas such as Silema and Valleta is the best way forward without putting pressure on the little green spaces on the islands and thus also helps preserve historic Gozo and Malta. Also we all get a break to enjoy these majestic islands away from our cars, lorries etc whilst enjoying the ferry trips …though winter crossings can be rough sometimes but the skill of the ferrymen is ace. With so many people on mobiles whilst driving leaves us all with an accident waiting to happen on either proposed structures.

    9. Janey says:

      What we should consider is making a fast exit out of the EU!!!

    10. EuroGozitan says:

      And why is that, Janey? Do you feel that EU membership has not benefitted Malta enough (do have a look at the ubiquitous EU-funded building and improvement projects)? Maybe you would just like to have us join the UK in its self-chosen exile from the world, so it still has a smaller country to look down on…

    11. Janey says:

      Malta is now overbuilt and very ugly compared to other islands who had the common sense not to over build.

    12. EuroGozitan says:

      And how is that related to EU membership? If anything, EU membership has introduced environmental legislation, protection of (foreign) labourers and some form of quality management control on building and associated activities. Sadly, enforcement is still not always effective and much relies on participation and goodwill of the local stakeholders. I remember how things were prior to EU membership, with fly-tipped industrial waste all over rural areas and the only qualifications needed for teaching or management positions being related to someone in charge. More EU involvement, especially regarding nature protection and education, would be welcome.

    13. Janey says:

      The EU funded buildings make Malta look ugly. An island is supposed to look like an island and not have large buildings and overbuilt. Better waste all over the island than the over built they have now. Malta doesn’t even look like an island anymore. Thats the truth that Malta doesn’t even look like an island anymore. It looks like an overbuilt mess

    14. EuroGozitan says:

      What EU funded buildings are you talking about? The EU co-funds restoration of buildings and landscapes of cultural, natural and historic importance. It also plays a large role in supporting infrastructure improvements all throughout Malta and Gozo.
      What does an island look like according to you? The UK and Japan are islands, and I don’t see you having a fit over the building regulations or policies there. If you don’t like living in an EU country and live at peace with people from other countries, feel free to seek your fortune in that bigoted backwater that the UK has become (if they let you in, of course).

    15. Janey says:

      It is stated as a fact that many of the pipes in Malta and Gozo that deliver water throughout every hotel and every home in Malta and Gozo are very old and cracked. So why doesn’t the EU take care of this? Why endanger tourists and people who live on the island? The people who live on the island are aware of this because they buy bottled water.

    16. EcoGozitan says:

      So, on the one hand you are demanding the EU to step in regarding national matters, on the other you say we should get out of the EU for reasons you haven’t been able to support. I suggest you make up your mind.

      Many things are stated as fact, but this doesn’t automatically make them facts. Read professional and academic research instead of internet conspiracy theories and maybe you’ll eventually be able to make some illuminating comments, instead of the current erratic stream of inane verbiage.

      The reason tap water isn’t too good has to do with the source of it; high mineral content (horrible taste, lime scale in kettles, potential kidney damage, etc.) is imparted to well and aquifer water by our soil. Sea water isn’t directly fit for consumption. Unless we get high-capacity reverse osmosis units providing treated water to every house, not much can be done at this time. The reverse osmosis process consumes a lot of energy and the equipment isn’t cheap to build or maintain. Maybe bottled water is cheaper in the short to medium term.

    17. Janey says:

      I repeat, who in their right mind would want to live in Malta until the water problem is fixed? Someone should step in and change the pipes. The pipes should come first and not the parks

    18. miriammcelwee says:

      Yes I do agree with you

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