Parliamentary Secretary Chris Said is calling on the government to immediately study his proposal for an underwater tunnel between Malta and Gozo, which he estimates would cost about €150 million.
“This was my dream as a young boy for whom a trip to Malta was a rarity, as a student whose daily trip to and from University was an added hurdle... and as a daily commuter, whose office is across the water from my family. As a member of the government, it is now more than a dream. It is my proposal,” he writes in an article on The Times.
Dr Said argues a tunnel is the “best” way of linking the two islands and says the cost could be recouped in 15 years. It could be co-financed with private investors and support from the EU.
He explains the difficulties experienced by daily commuters who spend at least two hours extra each day to make the voyage by ferry, which is heavily dependent on weather conditions.
Dr Said points out accessibility has been discussed since 1968 and various options were mentioned, including a bridge, which would cause too much of a visual impact, and an airstrip, which, he says, would only serve upmarket tourists.
In 1971, the government had commissioned a study by the Overseas Technical Cooperation Agency of Japan, which, Dr Said says, should be reanalysed and complemented with further studies in light of modern advancements.
“A tunnel would not present any negative visual impact; nor would it disturb the seabed or Comino’s character. The tunnel would be dug 50 metres below the seabed and navigation between the two islands would not be hampered in any way,” he writes, comparing its pros and cons with that of a bridge.
The benefits of such a tunnel, he says, will include economic growth, easier access for tourists and better adherence to the EU’s freedom of movement policies.
Dr Said’s proposal comes a few days after Gozitan businessman Joseph Borg took advantage of a visit by the Prime Minister to his factory and called for the building of a “permanent road” between the two islands.
The former chairman of Gozo Channel said a bridge would have a negative visual impact but an underwater tunnel would be good for everyone, especially Gozitan enterprise.
Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi said yesterday the government was open to examine in depth every proposal, including this one, in order to assess the viability and eventual improvement of accessibility.
Opposition Leader Joseph Muscat called for “courageous” decisions to be taken to link Gozo and Malta, saying the people of Gozo should have a major say in this matter.
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