Infrastructure Malta has shortlisted one bidder of four who submitted an offer to build a tunnel between Malta and Gozo.

The only bidder to make it past the first hurdle is a consortium made up of five companies, tender documents show. They are the UK’s Equitix, Japanese company Itochu, Turkish companies Yapi Merkezi and Makyol, and French company Egis.

Rival bidders Malta-Gozo Fixed Link Limited, Salini Impregilo SpA and CGYI Malta-Gozo consortium have all been eliminated by Infrastructure Malta’s tendering committee.

The appeal period for the decision closes on September 20.

Infrastructure Minister Ian Borg said last year that the government would not be funding the project, as all construction and maintenance costs would be borne by the winning bidder. 

The minister said the government would maintain control of all the inert material that would be generated as part of the project. He said this material should be viewed as a resource, rather than waste. 

Borg also said in January last year that the tunnel project is financially viable even without state subsidies, adding that the tolls would only be determined at the end of negotiations with the preferred bidder.

Infrastructure Malta CEO Frederick Azzopardi told a parliamentary committee in May that IM’s conceptual design is for a 14-kilometre horseshoe-shaped tunnel running underground and under the seabed between l-Imbordin, in St Paul’s Bay, and a road near Kenuna Tower, in Nadur.

But this was not the final design or technology – whether bored or immersed. That would only be determined once bidders who satisfied the criteria passed the first phase of the evaluation process and moved to the second phase.

Mixed views on tunnel

According to a recent survey commissioned by Times of Malta, support for the project is split down the middle, with 41.6 per cent of the population in favour and 38.8 per cent against.

Respondents from Gozo tended to be more against the project, with a total of 41.5 per cent expressing disagreement and 37.7 per cent saying they are in favour.

The project to build a tunnel was initiated by the Nationalist government in 2012 when a series of studies was launched. Since the beginning of the tendering process in 2018, Gozo Channel has added another ferry to its fleet and two companies have started running a fast-ferry service from Valletta to Gozo.

Respondents from Gozo tended to be more against the project

The current proposal would lead to the creation of a 13-kilometre-long tunnel with one traffic lane heading in either direction, and an additional safety lane.

Serious concerns have been raised about the environmental impact of the project and about how it might accelerate the construction activity that is already changing the face of Gozo.

Environmental groups have flagged how arable and natural land will be eaten up for the tunnel’s two entrances and how the authorities will have to somehow cater for the unprecedented volume of one million cubic metres of waste generated from the tunnelling.

Who is the shortlisted bidder for tunnel project?

The consortium is made up of:

Equitix – A UK-based investment firm specialising in infrastructure and energy projects in the UK and Europe. 

Itochu – A Japanese company involved in the import and export of textiles and other materials.

Yapi Merzeki – A Turkish construction company with experience in tunnel construction. 

Makyol – Another Turkish construction company with involvement in various infrastructure projects. 

Egis – A construction and engineering company that is a subsidiary of Caisse des Dépôts, a French public sector financial institution. 

Who were the other bidders? 

Malta-Gozo Fixed Link Limited – A company with no prior experience in major infrastructure projects. The son of the late Hugo Chetcuti, Luke Chetcuti, is the main face behind the company. 

CGYI Malta-Gozo consortium – Another consortium whose members include China Communications Constructions Co., which carried out a study for the Maltese government in 2013 looking into the feasibility of a Malta-Gozo bridge. 

Salini Impregilo SpA – An Italian company that has been involved in several large infrastructure projects, including roads, metro systems and dams.

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