A private contractor will have to finance the building of the Gozo-Malta tunnel and would then take over its operation for a number of years depending on its final cost, according to the head of the project’s steering committee, Franco Mercieca.

The toll set will also depend on the cost, but he insisted that the operator would break even well before the 100-year anticipated lifespan of the tunnel, meaning that the concession period would be “much shorter” than that.

In a Times Talk interview, he also stressed that the private investor would cover the cost of the tunnel, whereas the cost of three new ferries would have to be covered by the government through taxpayers’ money.

The current ferries, which need to be replaced by 2030, would also be replaced by smaller ones, which would still carry cars but whose main focus would be passengers, he said.

Mr Mercieca also said he understood that the fourth ferry would not be purchased but leased – crew and all – for a definite period.

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