Transport Malta has slammed Arriva’s “unacceptable” public transport service and given the company until the end of this month to bring it up to scratch, The Sunday Times has learnt.

Notwithstanding all efforts, the service has remained practically in the same levels since the beginning of the year

The transport watchdog is even threatening to deploy its own buses at Arriva’s expense if this ultimatum is not met, and is questioning whether the service is “sustainable” considering the large amount of penalties being issued.

“Reliability at certain times of the day goes down to zero per cent meaning no trips would have been done for an hour, and sometimes more,” Transport Malta said about one route group in a scathing review of the service.

The Sunday Times is in possession of the letter sent by TM Land Transport Directorate chief officer Konrad Pulè to Arriva Malta’s managing director Richard Hall last Wednesday.

“Transport Malta will not tolerate this low level of service any longer, and unless the route group is brought to 100 per cent reliability, and a reasonable level of punctuality by the end of November, Transport Malta will have no option to deploy additional buses or coaches to ensure the contracted level of service is achieved, all of which will be done at Arriva’s expense.”

Arriva, which started operating in Malta in July 2011, amid a promise of a “revolution” in public transport, has been plagued by complaints ever since. Just yesterday The Times reported about one woman’s “journey from hell” which left her in the same spot she started after a two-hour detour.

In his biting letter, Mr Pulè refers to various meetings and correspondence with Mr Hall and his predecessor David Kaye where Transport Malta “continuously highlighted the unacceptable level of service of public transport in Malta”.

Transport Malta says it has been monitoring the routes through surveyors since it has been unable to rely on Arriva’s control room system, which is still only providing an “unacceptable” 70 per cent of activity.

“Notwithstanding all efforts, the service has remained practically in the same levels since the beginning of the year, with the level of reliability remaining at around 86 per cent, which is unacceptable,” Transport Malta wrote.

Reliability is calculated as the number of buses per hour actually serving routes, compared with the minimum number of buses per hour that are required to meet the maximum waiting time stipulated in the contract.

Transport Malta also said the level of punctuality and maximum waiting time compliance were “very low”.

“This is besides the large amount of penalties that have been imposed on Arriva Malta for not complying with the contractual requirements when it comes to service reliability and punctuality, apart from other penalties on other compliance issues, which we believe is not sustainable.”

Transport Malta said it has allowed more than sufficient time for Arriva Malta to meet users’ needs and expectations, insisting that “due to the magnitude of the problem” Arriva should have addressed individual routes or route groups.

“Notwithstanding our agreement some weeks ago to focus on the 40s, 70s, 80s and X1, based on the monitoring we are doing, there has been little or no improvement.”

Transport Malta included a detailed analysis of some of the most problematic route groups, particularly the 70s, which go from Floriana to Qrendi and Żurrieq.

There were insufficient buses allocated towards this route group. For example, it was impossible for route 73 to operate an hourly service with just one bus when a circular journey took more than an hour.

Transport Malta dispatched some 11 officers on board all buses along this group to monitor the service.

It warned that a similar exercise would be carried out on routes X1, 82 and 43 in the coming days and would provide Arriva with a separate report to this effect.

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