Gozo tunnel from Manikata to Nadur, 82% of Gozitans “in favour” of tunnel
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Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects Ian Borg, in a statement today has announced new developments and information about the Malta-Gozo tunnel project.
The details were first given during a press conference yesterday, where the Minister was joined by the Norwegian expert commissioned by Transport Malta, Prof Eivind Grov, as well as Dr Franco Mercieca, who will be chairing the Steering Committee of this project.
Minister Borg that this project will be “positively affecting several people,” and reminded those present that “according to a study by Marvin Formosa in 2017, 82% of Gozitans are in favour of the project.”
He said that “this support makes a lot of sense, as this tunnel will be encouraging more youths to establish themselves in Gozo and will also be pushing the economy of this island forward.”
The Minister announced that in Gozo, it is apparent that land which is already disturbed in Nadur will be utilised, while in Malta, experts are considering the area between Manikata and Imbordin.
He explained that “the portals on either end of the tunnel will be placed in areas where they will have the least negative impact on the environment, while the way the terrain will be excavated will also be done in a studied manner so that access can be provided without unnecessary disturbance of the area.”
The Minister reminded those present that studies on this aspect are still ongoing and results have not yet been concluded.
The environment is a priority, the Minister said, and, as is expected for a project such as this, a full detailed EIA is being commissioned.
Minister Borg also explained that the land and environment of Comino will not be disturbed as no access to it will be given through the tunnel.
The Minister remarked about what he described as the “possible mistaken idea that this project is one that is only being considered.”
He went on to say that the “extensive work being carried out by the Ministry is proof that the Malta-Gozo tunnel project is a concrete project which is being taken seriously because of the positive social impact it could have on our communities, especially in Gozo.”
Minister Borg said he visited Gozo a few months ago, when investigative coring was being carried out to determine several factors which will be forming this long-awaited project.
“Studies have reached an advanced stage and studies to identify tunnel portal locations have now begun,” he said.
Minister Borg explained how, while studies have not yet been completely concluded, so far they indicate that the tunnel will be around 12 kilometres long with a 70 metre squared section.
“With a lane on each side and another emergency lane, everything indicates that this tunnel will be able to hold 6,500 vehicles per day in both directions,” said the Minister.
He emphasised that safety and quality are two essential factors, and explained that the tunnel will be built according to European standards.
Here, he referred to Prof. Grov, who is helping with the concept design, which includes carriageway design, ventilation, illumination systems, signage, safety measures and service passages.
The Minister said that several studies have already been carried out, leading to the collection of extensive surface data for a 500 metre-wide corridor along the preferred route alignment, including LIDAR, geological mapping, fault mapping, fluid seepage survey, and geological interpretation, detailed bathymetric (sea depth) data in the channels between the three islands, sub-surface data collected from a field survey, and results of investigative coring performed to depths of between 150 metres and 275 metres in Malta and Gozo on land and offshore off Comino.
He continued by saying that the University of Malta and OGS Trieste are now working to build a geological model of the area, and a financial model study is also underway.
Regarding deadlines, the Minister explained that the goal for this year is to conclude pre-construction studies, and concept design, including design of the roads leading to the tunnel.
The Minister said that, “the greatest challenge appears to be related to the disposal of excavation material, but added that the EIA will be addressing this issue and proposing possible alternatives.”
Minister Borg also said that at the beginning of next year, the Ministry is planning to issue the tender for construction, and the winning bidder will be required to carry out further studies related to construction so that the final design can lead to the preparation of planning permit applications.
He said that the “project timeliness depend on results from all studies which, as can clearly be seen, are extensive and are being done based on several factors.”
Dr Franco Mercieca spoke about the importance of this project, and explained how had only been a dream for Gozitan ancestors.
He said that as a result of a tunnel between the two islands, “Gozitans will no longer need to make the difficult choice between career progression and family.”
Dr Mercieca concluded by expressing his confidence in this project becoming a reality.
Norwegian consultant Prof. Eivind Grov spoke about his experience in the field, and explained that more than 30 projects of this kind have been carried out in his country.
He said that, thanks to projects such as these, small communities detached from urban land were given new life.
Prof Grov said that Mr Martin Knights – who was the President for the International Tunnelling Association – described these projects as ‘social tunnelling,’ as they were planned “to improve the quality of life of smaller populations,” and said that, “this will be the case with Gozo, which has a lot to benefit from this project.”
Photograph: DOI/Omar Camilleri