Thursday, 23 August 2007
Public Transport in Malta
This is the time of year when the Maltese public transport is really put to the test. Apart from the usual local commuters travelling to and from work, there are also thousands of language students who use the public transport system regularly as they go to their lessons and visit certain places.
Unlike many other countries around the world, Malta's public transport system is limited to a number of buses. There are no trains, trams, or a subway system. Furthermore, many of the buses are fairly old, with very small seats, and low ceilings. Air conditioning is a privilege that only the tourists travelling in the private coaches get. Given the fact that in some buses, the windows cannot be opened (they are simply stuck!), the lack of air conditioning is a serious problem.
Malta's summer is extremely harsh. Although the worst months are July and August, June and September are also normally quite hot. Whenever there is a heat wave, even sitting down to read a book can be difficult without a fan or air conditioning. Imagine travelling in a Maltese bus during such times of the year without any air conditioning! The situation is even worse when one considers that these buses are frequently packed from morning to evening.
Many people say that since the bus fares are so low, one should not expect much. To go to several places around the island, each ticket costs € 0.47. I do not believe that this is a valid argument. The bus fares in Malta are low so that all people are able to use it; it would be terrible if only rich people could have access to the public transport system.
The bottom line is that the system needs to be improved. And this has to happen fast. Every year, I have a feeling that Malta is losing a certain percentage of potential tourists simply because they know that they can visit other countries where they can find much more comfortable transport. Perhaps the time has come for the government to invest in constructing an underground transport system and to get rid of the buses currently in use.
I strongly believe that the government has the necessary funds to improve the public transport system in Malta. Every year, we hear how public funds have been spent on projects of much lesser importance. As I see it, the problem is one of will; unfortunately, the government does not really seem to be interested in doing something about this matter.
The present government is totally cut off from how bad the public transport system is. With virtually all the Members of Parliament being driven around in beautiful air-conditioned cars, they cannot imagine the shocking discomfort of travelling on a Maltese bus. I am quite sure that if the Members of Parliament had to go to work using the public transport system, we would see some radical measures being implemented!!!
Malta will be witnessing its next general elections sometime next year. I really hope that a change of government will finally bring forth the necessary changes to see an improved public transport system that would benefit all the people living in the Maltese islands.