Updated 6.40pm with COOL's reaction
The ridesharing company COOL announced on Friday it will cease all operations on the island on January 27, blaming a lack of government transport incentives.
COOL was set up in Malta in 2019 as the first operation of its kind on the island: clients could book a cab through an app and share the ride with strangers.
In a statement sent to the media announcing its departure, COOL said similar ridesharing models had proved successful in over 35 countries thanks to government transport policy incentives.
“Without such policy, it has become clear that the mobility services delivered by COOL will not be a feasible solution going forward.
"According to the latest national transport survey, almost 90% of all trips in Malta take place by means of single-occupancy vehicles such as private cars and cabs and therefore a modal shift in transportation is required with a transport policy that promotes traffic-reducing solutions."
The COOL brand is owned by the Debono Group, which was also a minority shareholder in GoTo Malta - the car-sharing company that closed down its local operation at the end of September.
The company had told Times of Malta it was quitting after a “lack of user uptake” worsened by the pandemic made the operation “financially unsustainable”.
In comments to Times of Malta, transport minister Aaron Farrugia said the ride-sharing company had asked twice for a bailout.
However, the government had refused to financially support COOL, citing unfair competition.
“Why should COOL, and not other companies, receive government aid? Buses are already free,” the minister said, adding that while COOL will cease operations, other operators had recently joined the market.
However, late on Friday COOL denied it had ever asked for a bailout.
"COOL would like to state that it never asked the government for any bailout.
"COOL was in discussions with the authorities to accelerate the modal shift in mobility, thus reducing traffic congestion. COOL reiterates that any government transport policy incentives would apply to all players in the market," it said in a statement.