Various business leaders on Monday highlighted their growing worries about Malta’s traffic situation, with a number of accidents and congestions taking place over recent months.
The troubling situation on Malta’s roads has continued to make headlines for all the wrong reasons this month, most recently following the tragic death of 17-year-old Kacey Sciberras, who was the victim of an accident on the Central Link road in Attard on Sunday. This particular accident also saw another 17-year-old girl, together with the 20-year-old driver, hospitalised.
Additionally, earlier this month, two men riding a motorcycle died after a collision with a car being driven the wrong way near Mosta, while in a separate incident, a 54-year-old motorcyclist died on the Birkirkara bypass after losing control of his vehicle. This presents a bleak picture for safety on Malta’s roads, especially having most recently experienced its deadliest year on record in 2022, recording 26 road fatalities over the year.
Following these unfortunate events, StreetHR Director Joseph Farrugia took to social media to reflect on what could be done to improve Malta’s situation.
One proposal that he put forward was for Government to possibly stop “incentivising fuel and instead provide vouchers to be used with transport and ride-hailing services”.
“This, together with free bus transport services, will hopefully eliminate more cars from our roads. Vouchers’ value can be circulated pro-rate to social status or earnings,” he added.
While he remarked that he is “not an economist” and that it is “just an idea”, Mr Farrugia highlighted that people need to “think outside the box” in terms of possible solutions to this growing issue.
His suggestion prompted a discussion, with freelance Communication Coach Pia Zammit agreeing with Mr Farrugia’s idea.
“As free as the public transport system is though, it also needs to be more efficient. We need more frequent buses as well as more direct routes, and later schedules too,” she said.
“It all requires money, of course, but if the money we’re spending on fuel subsidies, widening roads, and building flyovers were spent on alternative means of transport, then we wouldn’t need the wider roads anyway. We need to make car ownership not the most logical option,” Ms Zammit explained.
Last week, eCabs CEO Andrew Bezzina put forward the idea of introducing on-street parking fees in order to curb traffic congestion within the country’s high-density urban areas. Additionally, he also said that a “policy of inclusion” needs to be adopted where people consider alternative modes of transport to their private vehicles to go to a particular location.
Others highlighted how Mr Farrugia’s idea could prove to be a good initiative, yet added that the solution is more enforcement across Malta’s road network.
ASG Pharma Ltd Head of Operations Adrian Azzopardi noted that people will “still want to use their cars” even if such a proposal is put in place, before adding that enforcement is the “key to reduce accidents”. Materia Ventures Head of Production and Engineering Rennie Cachia was in agreement, stating that together with more enforcement, “harsher penalties” need to be put in place.
Enser Ltd Managing Director Anton Cutajar took a more forceful approach, stating that “Draconian measures” need to be taken, such as the “prohibition of cars on Sundays” except for public transport, ambulances, and other necessary vehicles.
“Not even simple things like rubbish collection at night and delivery vans prohibition at peak hours were ever considered locally,” he added. These are proposals that Ing Cutajar had already brought to light last November, stating that the fact these are not in place is “infuriating”.
On the other hand, Miller Distributors Ltd Sales Manager Simon Pace remarked that there need to be “more safe cycle lanes and incentives for using a bicycle”.
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Family businesses account for more than 70% of Malta’s SMEs, and are hence vital components of the local economy.