It would be useless to issue a call for tenders for a scheduled ferry service in Grand Harbour unless the Barrakka lift was in place but this was taking long to happen because of the planning authority, the Transport Minister charged yesterday.

Austin Gatt blamed the planning watchdog for delaying the Barrakka lift project, saying four different designs were submitted to satisfy demands made by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority.

Dr Gatt was speaking in Rabat where he announced regulations for trackless trains. Two new routes for the operation of such a service have been set in St Paul's Bay and Marsaxlokk.

"Trackless trains are a small component of the transport reform but it was felt necessary to regulate their operation," Dr Gatt said.

The service is offered on the Rabat route by an operator and the regulations would open the possibility of competition on the same routes if it is deemed feasible.

Any party interested in offering the service would have to register with Transport Malta, which would issue a licence, and operators would have to stick to established routes.

Fares would be unregulated but rates and schedules would have to be published and TM would make sure they were adhered to.

TM was also open to evaluate other routes but it all depended on the suitability of roads and the volume of traffic in the areas chosen.

Dr Gatt said talks with white taxi owners were expected to conclude satisfactorily next week and the reform put in motion in July.

ksansone@timesofmalta.com