Congestion, noise and air pollution from traffic are costing Malta some €400 million annually, the European Commission said in a report.
In its latest country report on Malta, the commission said that the so-called external costs of transport amount to 3.6 per cent of the island’s gross domestic product (GDP).
The figure is also on the rise, the commission said, confirming similar concerns flagged by the University of Malta in a 2015 study.
At the time, traffic-related issues were already costing Malta some €274 million, although the university had predicted the costs would reach €300 million by 2020, a whopping €100 million less than present costs.
The commission also found that Malta’s dependence on road mobility together with an “inefficient road network and an established preference for private transport” have resulted in significant road congestion problems, noise, air pollutants and increased greenhouse emissions.
“Traffic congestion remains a key challenge, given the high reliance on private cars,” it said.
“The lack of soft mobility infrastructure (such as pavements and cycling lanes) discourages the use of alternative modes of transport and exacerbates congestion in Malta.”
Tackling the issue would require improving the overall service quality of the public transport system – its comfort, availability and punctuality – including by providing reserved bus lanes. This could facilitate the “modal shift and reduce congestion, emissions and pollution”.
The commission’s report also highlighted achieving environmentally sustainable economic growth as one of Malta’s key challenges.
“Among others, Malta is struggling to achieve sustainable mobility, meaning reducing traffic congestion and decarbonising transport, as well as broadening the uptake of renewable energy and energy efficiency initiatives.
“The high volume of generated construction and demolition waste and municipal waste along with the low rates of recycling also remain major challenges,” it said.
As a small island state in the Mediterranean, Malta faces several challenges to achieve environmentally sustainable growth and is particularly vulnerable to climate risks
As a “small island state in the Mediterranean”, Malta faces several challenges to achieve environmentally sustainable growth and is particularly vulnerable to climate risks, the report states, while also calling for bespoke climate and environmental policies to be implemented.
Meanwhile, the report said that Malta’s recovery and resilience plan (RRP) is expected to contribute “substantially” to the country’s green transition.
“With 54 per cent of the plan’s total allocation dedicated to climate and environmental objectives, it includes several measures to address the country’s challenges in this area including the need to reduce traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions, decarbonise transport and achieve sustainable mobility,” it said.
“Key initiatives include the electrification of public and private road transport and a reform granting free public transport to all persons in Malta in possession of the personalised travel card (Tal-linja card).
“The construction of a new ferry landing site is expected to contribute to the modal shift from road to maritime transport.”