Nine boreholes, both on land and on the seabed between Malta and Gozo, should establish a clearer picture of where the route of an underground tunnel between the two islands could eventually be dug.

Works, technically described as ‘investigative coring’, are currently being conducted by Italian firm Geotec Spa, which won a €751,000 tender issued by the government. According to information given to PN MP Chris Said by Transport Minister Ian Borg, the coring tests concern Mellieħa and Ċirkewwa in Malta and Ghajnsielem and Nadur in Gozo, while two boreholes are being dug in the Malta-Gozo strait.

Sources said that the cores will test the strength of the geology of the rock. Many more studies would be needed as these are still considered to form a preliminary phase of the project.

A Malta-Gozo permanent link has been long on the political agenda with many governments promising to study various options, particularly a bridge or an underground tunnel.

Although until a few years ago, the costs to construct such a mega-project were prohibitive when compared to the size of the Maltese economy, technology has advanced significantly in recent years pushing the costs of such a project, particularly a tunnel, significantly down.

Construction costs for such a project would still run into hundreds of millions of euros and take many years to be complete. Both major political parties promised the tunnel project in their electoral manifesto.

The latest initiative on the possibility to put in place a permanent link between the two islands was started by Gozo MP Chris Said when he was a minister in the last PN administration. The idea was continued by the Labour administration when returned to power in 2013.

At first, Labour considered a bridge instead of a tunnel and commissioned a Chinese State entity to carry out the necessary studies.

However, later on in the legislature, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said the focus will be on a tunnel and before the election even suggested that this project could be completed in seven years.

According to a recent study, 82 per cent of Gozitans are in favour of the tunnel and 13 per cent against.

Young people were mostly in favour, the elderly generally against.

ivan.camilleri@timesofmalta.com

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