Over 100 cubic metres of concrete were yesterday poured into the foundations of the panoramic lift that will connect Lascaris ditch to Valletta’s Upper Barrakka.

The freestanding lift will be built on foundations that contain 25 tonnes of metal buried 1.5 metres into the ground, said architect Stephen Grech who is overseeing the structural works.

The 53-metre-high lift is expected to be operational by the end of next year. It will consist of two cabins, each taking 21 passengers at any one time, explained Chris Paris, chief executive officer of the Grand Harbour Rehabilitation Cooperation, which is overseeing the project.

The lift will be able to carry up to 800 people per hour. Its concrete structure will be covered with a honey-coloured aluminium mesh to blend in with the limestone of the bastions. In order to safeguard the newly-restored bastions, the lift will be freestanding so as not to damage the fortifications. Once the foundations are completed the next phase will include installing reinforced concrete columns that will support the lift, Mr Paris said.

The €2.5 million project, which is mostly funded by the EU, will bring back a century-old link between Valletta and Grand Harbour. It will replace a British-built lift that started operating in 1905 – carrying 12 passengers in each of two cabins – and which was decommissioned in 1973. It was dismantled in 1983.

In 2006, then Roads Minister Jesmond Mugliett announced the €3.5 million vertical connection project for a city completely interlinked by funicular trains, lifts and escalators, and devoid of traffic turmoil, by mid-2008. That tender was won by a consortium made up of the Gasan Group, Tumas Group and KDM Group.

In January 2008, Mr Mugliett presented a motion in Parliament, which would have transferred the sites to the Transport Authority that would then have allocated them to the Valletta Connections Consortium for the rebuilding of the Barrakka lift. However, the motion was not debated because it came too late in the legislature.

In 2009, Transport Minister Austin Gatt announced the lift project as part of the Renzo Piano plans for Valletta that included the rebuilding of City Gate, the Royal Opera House and a new Parliament building.

In March 2009 the government submitted a planning application for the construction of the lift. The full development permit was granted in September last year.

A month later, the government issued a tender for the design and build of the lift, which was awarded to a consortium made up of Mekanika Ltd, Polidano Group and JS Dimech Ltd.

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