Updated 3.11pm with Malta Public Transport response

A supervisor responsible for certifying route buses as roadworthy protested on Tuesday that the situation at Malta Public Transport is so serious, that he does not even allow his own son to use the buses.

Claudio Cutajar said in a judicial protest against MPT that he had been threatened after he refused to certify public buses as roadworthy when they were not.

In a statement later, MPT said it "categorically denies" the allegations by Cutajar, who is facing disciplinary charges for gross misconduct and that it would take legal action to defend its reputation. 

Cutajar attached several photos to his judicial protest to back up his claims.

A photo submitted with the court filings.A photo submitted with the court filings.

Cutajar joined MPT in July 2020 following years of experience in the field, including years working for an Irish company.

In May last year, a Maltese director at the company resigned and his post was taken up by Hector Astorga, a Chilean national, who called a meeting for all workers at the company’s Luqa yard.

Cutajar said in his protest that the workers were told that the company was facing “very difficult times” especially because of the damage incurred by the buses in accidents and consequent demand for spare parts.

Unless the situation improved, the company would have to “pull down the shutter” and fire them all, Astorga warned.

Those present heeded the warning and began to seek other jobs. After May 2023, eight mechanics and two electricians left, leading to a diminished pool of mechanics that made it “humanly impossible” to keep up with the necessary every day repairs.

Cutajar said he was now facing “immoral” pressures from his superiors.

There were several instances where he was told to certify buses as roadworthy even though repairs for “substantial damages” had not been done, he said in his protest.

He cited two recent examples.

In January, his workshop manager, Joe Grixti, ordered him to greenlight two vehicles.

One bus had oil leaking onto the brakes, giving rise to potential malfunctioning of the braking system and also the risk of fire when the fluid heated up on the road.

A chat conversation the applicant submitted as part of his court filings.A chat conversation the applicant submitted as part of his court filings.

Cutajar refused, saying his conscience would not allow him to risk somebody getting hurt.  

He also pointed out that repairs were logged onto the relative job card.

But Grixti allegedly shrugged off that observation saying, “Claudio why worry? We have the papers, no? We can attribute them to the [vehicle] before this one!”

On another occasion, when he refused to greenlight a bus with a broken kingpin in its front wheel, his manager sought to reassure him.

“If something happens and someone is injured, don’t worry [because] you’ll only shoulder 50% responsibility, the other 50% will be borne by the company……and we’re all in it with you too.”

But still, Cutajar said he stuck to his conscience, refusing to take bad decisions.

Written warnings are a 'frame-up'

Cutajar said that he now risked being fired for putting passenger safety first.

In March he was handed two written warnings which he said were “made-up excuses” to frame him and quietly get rid of him upon a third warning.

One of several damage reports submitted with court filings.One of several damage reports submitted with court filings.

He had even been stopped working night shifts so that he would not have to certify buses before they left the yard for early morning trips.

Well aware of the internal state of affairs and the lack of emergency repairs, Cutajar said he was “terrified” whenever some family member took public transport and did not let his son use the buses. 

He called on Malta Public Transport to stop the 'lies' triggered by his refusal to go against his own conscience and traffic laws.

He also rebutted the company's "spiteful warnings", saying they were due to the fact that he wanted to do his job well.

He also held the company responsible for damages.

Lawyers Jason Azzopardi and Kris Busietta signed the judicial protest.

'We would never compromise on safety'

In response MPT said it would "never" compromise on the safety of its passengers, employees or other road users and had strict procedures in place, based on the company's international experience. 

"The company would never allow buses that are not roadworthy to be put on the road," it said. 

It said it had full confidence in its team - Technical Director Hector Astorgar, Engineering Services Manager Joe Grixti, and Engineering Workshop Manager Danilo Overend.

"Malta Public Transport will be initiating legal action against Mr Cutajar, since it is left with no choice but to defend its reputation against baseless allegations," it continued. 

"We are confident that our records and evidence that will be presented in court, will prove that these allegations are false."

It said its buses undergo regular inspections and servicing every 35 days and are subject to independent roadworthiness tests as well as extra checks by Transport Malta. 

PN: Supervisor's claims are a matter of great concern

In a statement, the Nationalist Party said the supervisor's claims in his judicial protest were a matter of concern.

"Taxpayers are paying millions in subsidies to the bus service operator and they do not want to risk injury or even death," the shadow minister for transport, Mark Anthony Sammut, said. 

He said that it was essential that the regulatory authorities carried out regular, rigorous inspections of the buses. The allegations made should be urgently investigated.  

It was also the duty of the government to ensure that the operator it contracted observed the law and the highest safety standards.

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