Traffic is costing the Maltese economy €200 million in GDP a year and this will increase to €1.2 billion by 2050 unless current policies were changed, Transport Minister Joe Mizzi said today.
Speaking during the parliamentary debate on the second reading of the Budget Measures Implementation Bill, Mr Mizzi emphatically denied PN allegations that the government would be introducing congestion charges or a parking tax.
He said it was clear that the only way for the traffic problem to be meaningfully relieved was a reduction in the number of private cars on the roads. The measures implemented in the 2017 budget would continue to further this aim, with tax incentives of up to €50,000 for companies that provided transportation for their employees and free public transport for 18-year-olds born in 1999.
The National Transport Strategy 2050 and the Transport Master Plan 2025 – which were fully costed – had both been approved by the European Commission, he said.
Mr Mizzi chided the Opposition for refusing to participate in the process of public consultation leading up to the publication of these plans, and for attempting to tarnish government projects in order to limit the government’s access to funding, but thanked those Nationalist MPs who had contributed ideas individually.
He said that these plans identified a range of short- and long-term solutions intended to solve the congestion problem. These included four major infrastructural projects costing a total of €386 million: the Kappara project; Aldo Moro flyover; Addolorata flyover; and the Regional Road tunnel in St. Andrew’s.
The first phase of the Addolorata flyover was under way, and had been approved for €38 million in EU funds, he said.
Furthermore, there was an emphasis on promoting cycling as a safe type of transport, with bicycle-sharing schemes, a cycling network of safe routes, and fiscal incentives all explored by these plans.
Turning to public transport, Mr Mizzi said that statistics showed the provided service to be 99 per cent reliable and buses were arriving within 10 minutes of their scheduled arrival 95 per cent of the time.
Mr Mizzi added that since the service was taken over by Autobuses de Leon in 2015, it had seen an increase of 15 per cent in the amount of passengers carried, which came to a total of 43 million in 2016.
Last year had also seen 100,000 Maltese download the Tallinja smartphone app which provided real-time information of when buses would be arriving next at any bus stop on the island, the minister said.
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