Students on their way to 9 am O’level exams were among hundreds stuck in chock-a-block traffic on Monday morning as the Water Services Corporation closed a major road between Naxxar and St Paul’s Bay.
Part of Triq Is-Salina has been closed “due to network upgrades” and is set to remain so until June 15.
The roads in the surrounding area were jammed as a result, with many commuters stuck in cars and buses for more than an hour.
Among these were a mother taking her son to sit for his Biology O’level: “At first, he was revising his notes but at a point, he started to get really tense".
The woman said she had actually accounted for the road closure and left home one hour and 15 minutes before the 9am exam.
“I pass through that road every day and I couldn’t imagine it would take so long," she said.
But the woman from St Paul’s Bay, who preferred to remain anonymous, said that heavy congestion throughout the coast road meant her son arrived for his exam in Santa Venera at 9.05 am, five minutes late.
“Luckily he did not suffer any penalty,” she said.
Antonella Falzon was on the X1A bus at 7.30 am but still arrived an hour late for her lecture at MCAST Paola.
In a commute that usually takes an hour, Falzon was still in Salini, in the limits of St Paul’s Bay, 60 minutes into her bus ride.
“I had a presentation today. I was lucky that the lecturer is nice because he could have not allowed me to the lecture,” the 28-year-old said.
One professional who works in Ta’ Xbiex also expressed her frustration after her normal 35-minute commute turned into a journey of one hour and 15 minutes.
“Saying I arrived to work full of road rage is an understatement,” she said.
Suggestion to shift exam venues
E-Cabs CEO Andrew Bezzina said that company traffic flow data shows that Matsec season clogs up the central areas of the island.
“The authorities should explore carrying out Matsec exams in students’ own schools or in regional catchment areas to avoid generating more traffic,” he suggested.
“Transport authorities could draft cycle and walking routes for students within a five-kilometre radius and even encourage public transport for students as an affordable and reliable alternative to being driven to their exams,” he said.
In a reaction to Monday morning's traffic jam, WSC said the road closure is necessary to carry out an “essential” upgrade to the water distribution network supply for the northern part of Malta.
“This major upgrade is necessary to meet the current and future demands of this region's growing economy and population, and to tackle low water pressure concerns,” WSC said.
The corporation said it coordinated with Transport Malta and other authorities to minimise the impacts of the road closure on commuters.
“No works were carried out before the set timeframes. Diversion signs indicating the approved diversion routes and a shuttle service for bus passengers are in place to assist commuters,” they said.