Spending on roads will plummet by €20 million next year, with the lion’s share of these funds to be used on Malta’s bus service.

The government is set to spend some €40 million on the construction of new roads and a further €30 million on maintenance works next year, for a total spend of €70 million.

This is down from the €90 million allocated the previous year and a staggering €116 million in 2022.

These figures emerge from the budget estimates published on Monday night, which show that Infrastructure Malta’s overall allocation has been slashed from €98 million this year to just €78.5 million in 2024.

This drop reflects the natural timeline of projects under Infrastructure Malta’s wing, according to Ivan Falzon, the entity’s CEO.

“In 2023, we had several projects that reached their final phase and needed an additional injection of funds, such as the Għadira and Luqa projects, among others”, he told Times of Malta.

“In reality, this year’s allocation is along the same lines as that of 2022”.

In 2022, Infrastructure Malta was allocated €85.5 million, including some €75 million to be used for roadworks, but latest budget figures show that its actual expenditure during the year ballooned to over €133 million in all. The budget figures give some weight to Falzon’s argument.

Many of the cuts in the agency’s budget are down to EU funding programmes that have run their course, particularly the Cohesion funding programme of 2014-2020.

Sources told Times of Malta that although this programme was due to conclude years ago, it is not unusual for budget lines to drag on for a few more years. Funds from this programme have dropped by over €8 million over the past year, while other structural funds have also dipped.

Meanwhile, funds from the new Cohesion funding programme for 2021-2027 are less generous to date, with only just over €5 million allocated in this year’s budget.

Investment in public transport

The budget also sheds light on the government’s attempts to incentivise public transport in an effort to stem the ever-worsening traffic congestion across the country.

With the proposed metro project all but disappeared from sight, the focus seems to be on strengthening Malta’s bus service.

The allocation for the bus service has now shot up to €74 million, exactly €20 million more than it was in 2023.

This includes a €25 million allocation just to keep the service free for users, almost 80% more than what was spent last year. The introduction of the free bus service was the flagship announcement of the budget held two years ago.

The measure’s impact on easing Malta’s traffic woes remains unclear. Nevertheless, data obtained by Times of Malta shows that over 265,000 separate users have used the bus service in the year since the free service was introduced, more than in previous years.

Meanwhile, the budget shows that the government will be subsidising the Gozo fast ferry service to the tune of €8 million and spending a further €1 million on revamping the Marsamxett ferry landing site.

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