A call for tender regarding the Malta-Gozo tunnel project is expected to be published within the next six months, the Transport Ministry confirmed on Tuesday.
The government has submitted plans concerning the project to the EU Journal and a 'Prior Information Notice' would soon be published in the EU’s official gazette of record, Transport Minister Ian Borg told the press.
The notice is an official statement of intent meant to inform the EU market that a member state plans to undertake a project involving public tenders.
A ministry spokesperson later confirmed to the Times of Malta that they expected a tender for the project to be ready for publication within six months.
Speaking during a cabinet meeting that was open to the press, Dr Borg said the tunnel had been a long-held dream of the Gozitan people that the government would be making a reality.
The current proposal will lead to the creation of a 13km-long tunnel with a seven metre radius and one traffic lane heading in either direction, with an additional safety lane.
Traffic analysts predict that around 6,500 vehicles will use the tunnel on a day-to-day basis.
Dr Borg said the tender for the design, building, maintenance, and operation of the tunnel would be published some time next year. The tunnel is expected to be operational by around 2024.
“We have already shown that when we talk about major projects, we deliver.
This is why we are credible when we talk about delivering this Malta-Gozo link,” he said.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat later told Cabinet that major projects such as the proposed tunnel were essential.
“In the coming decades I am certain that people will wonder how we got by without projects like this,” he said.
Transport incident agency
Dr Borg also announced that a new agency focused on investigations into transport-related incidents would be set up soon.
This, he said, was important if the country was to learn from major transport related incidents.
“When we have accidents and incidents, we need to learn. We do not just need magisterial inquiries to establish criminal matters, but investigations from a transport point of view that will address these matters,” he said.
Earlier during the cabinet meeting, which was held at the Transport Malta Centre in Mosta, Dr Borg gave an overview of the projects being coordinated by his ministry.
Short-term interventions on the road network were necessary, he said, as people were still using their personal vehicle on a daily basis.
Meanwhile major projects like the the Marsa junction, which was used by some 3,000 cars an hour, were steaming ahead.
On Tuesday morning, asphalting had been carried out along parts of the Marsa junction and on Thursday - Republic Day - the government would be announcing a new traffic management plan for the area.
Gozo Business Chamber hopes that project will retain rhythm
News of the progress on the Gozo tunnel project was welcomed by the Gozo Business Chamber, saying this was the first step leading to the actual tendering process of a permanent link between the two islands.
A conceptual design will be ready in the first quarter of 2019.
It augured that the process which now has started would "continue unabated".