Concerns about 'cracks' on the underside of one of two recently-opened flyovers in Marsa have been dismissed by Infrastructure Minister Ian Borg, who said the photos are a rehash of a "temporary" issue flagged last week.
Fears about the flyover's structural safety were also assuaged by the structural engineer responsible for it, who told Times of Malta the structure "is perfectly safe".
During a visit on Monday, Times of Malta confirmed reports that parts of the flyover have had wooden planks affixed in some areas that appeared to be disjointed.
Earlier in the day, Nationalist Party Deputy Leader Robert Arrigo wrote on Facebook that the flyover had "small stones falling from above".
"If this is fake news for Minister Ian Borg, then my name is Cristiano Ronaldo!" he wrote alongside a photo of the flyover.
On Friday, the same flyover had to undergo repair work to fix a gaping pothole in one of its lanes.
'Fake news' - minister
Reacting to Mr Arrigo's post on Facebook, Dr Borg accused the PN deputy leader of being the latest to join the party's "fake news team" in a tongue-in-cheek post on his page.
"The photo shows the same spot I spoke about a few days ago, this time around from below instead of from above," the minister said.
Mr Arrigo's claims of stones falling was also incorrect, the minister said.
Rather, the missing material was a type of specialised "light foam" which workers had removed in the past days ahead of expansion joints being installed, he said.
As he had argued when reports of the pothole emerged on Friday, Dr Borg again insisted the issue was only temporary, until expansion joints are installed.
Questions sent to the ministry, both on Friday and on Monday, remained unanswered with a spokeswoman directing Times of Malta to the minister's Facebook post.
Civil engineers set minds at ease
The structural engineer responsible for the project reassured commuters that there was nothing to fear.
"I state categorically that the cracks are not structural, that the structure is perfectly safe and that all expansion joints will be installed in the near future and in no way are they linked to the structural safety of any users of the bridge," David Paul Grima said.
Another civil engineer who spoke to Times of Malta also confirmed that the cracks are not dangerous, though he said all the flyover’s various components should have been installed before it was opened.
Marc Bonnello, who heads the University of Malta’s Civil Structural Engineering department, explained that expansion joints are a common feature in structures like the flyover, as they “allow movement”.
While commuters were not in any danger if they used the flyover while it did not have expansion joints installed, cars which drove over the gaps could technically sustain damage, he said.
Insisting that he was not involved in the project in any way and was therefore not privy to its timeframes, Dr Bonello said that it did not seem to make much sense to open the flyover before all its components were in place.
“It seems that the issue is not one to do with the structure but with timing. If you inaugurate something, you assume everything is completed. It does not make sense to then stay opening and closing the junction afterwards,” he said.
Flyovers inaugurated in September
The flyover in question was one of two that was inaugurated on September 20 during an event by Infrastructure Malta costing €40,000.
The two interconnected flyovers, extending half a kilometre, link Marsa and Luqa, replacing the route through the Addolorata Cemetery traffic lights junction.
They are part of a €70 million project, co-financed through the EU’s Cohesion Fund and Connecting Europe Facility, which includes the development of a new multi-level intersection to replace the Addolorata traffic lights system with 12 kilometres of uninterrupted lanes, grade-separated at three levels, creating direct northbound and southbound connections between the arterial roads merging at this network node.