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Government is ignoring air quality issues, says AD

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Government is ignoring air quality issues, says AD AD spokesperson on infrastructure, energy and transport Ralph Cassar, in a statement asked “what is the Government doing to start the transition away from polluting vehicles? What is government doing to prepare for a zero-carbon future and a healthier urban environment? The answer I’m afraid, is little or nothing.”

He pointed out that “the recently published Air Quality in Europe report showing how low air quality because of the use of fossil fuels leads to premature deaths and the ERA report stating that schools close to busy roads are leading to children suffering from respiratory illnesses, are reminders of the massive failure of governments to address the major source of air pollutants.”

“One government after another failed to tackle the major source of air pollution: fossil fuelled transport. AD has long been advocating for a modal shift, one which offers real alternatives to car use- the single largest source of air pollutants,” said Cassar.

“However the current administration seems to be taking such suggestions with a pinch of salt,” argued Cassar. ” Rather than investing heavily in different modes of public transport, it is investing in car oriented measures which do very little to address the real change that is required. Cycling infrastructure is being weakened, and public transport seems to be struggling to cope with current demand, while getting stuck in traffic.”

“The present government has committed itself to fighting a lost battle. Increasing the current capacity of our roads whilst refusing outright to make more efficient spaces of them. We believe that our current roads are more than enough if used efficiently,” he said.

“The many empty passenger seats in the countless cars on the roads during rush hour is a prime example of inefficiency,” stated Cassar.”Most people travelling during rush hour have 1 or maybe 2 people in their car whereas a car’s capacity is typically of 4 or 5 people.”

He pointed out that, “this means many cars are only making use of 20-40% of their capacity. In the case of buses, capacity can easily reach over a 100 people, especially during rush hours where each bus is packed with well over its recommended capacity.

“In spite of this buses are treated as just another vehicle on the road, with priority lanes and other measures favouring public transport non-existent.”

Cassar went on to say that, “the Environment Commissioner in the Office of the Ombudsman is right. He is saying what we have been saying all along. Widening roads will not reduce congestion and pollution in the long term.”

He added that “We are therefore recommending serious investment in public transport, which makes its use more attractive. Providing free Wi-Fi on buses is a good thing but it is not enough to attract more people to using the service.”

Proper investment by the Government to ensure an efficient schedule, bus priority roads, bus shelters and other measures such as investment in a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, are desperately needed, he pointed out.

Cassar concluded by saying, “we believe that only when this issue is taken seriously enough can we start paving the way to a healthier lifestyle, one which is less polluting and involves more active modes of transport. A good start would be for the government to start implementing its own transport master plan.”

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