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A Gozo – Malta Tunnel Vision – by Lino DeBono

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A Gozo/Malta tunnel vision - By Lino DeBono

The majority that are writing against the tunnel project are either Maltese or foreigners residing in Gozo. As a whole they stand firm against the proposed project and wish the way of life in Gozo to remain unchanged.

This is a fair enough view for one and all to see and in its generality agree with, as who doesn’t like tranquillity, peacefulness and harmony.

These full and part time residents have mainly purchased property in Gozo for it’s quiet and rural life. If things change then their quality of life and also their investments will no doubt change dramatically.

It is also fair to say that not all Gozitans are for the tunnel project, especially those Gozitans who have no business contacts in the mainland and do not work or have any children working in Malta.

So who can dispute their very fundamental view?

There are about 7,000 Gozitan workers in Malta according to the latest statistics and about 1,200 Gozitans students studying at the University. To report for studies or work in Malta, one has to wake up before 5am and catch a bus or take ones own transport to the ferry for the early morning crossings.

On arrival at Cirkewwa they often find that the public transport has left exactly on time and commuters are left livid as they will have to wait another 30 or 45 minutes for the next bus to arrive.

This results in loss of time, anxiety and stress for a large number of Gozitan workers and students who arrive late for their studies or work.

Maltese colleague workers even if they sympathise with their Gozitan counterparts arriving late, or if they have to leave early occasionally to catch the bus, are bound to grumble and complain among themselves. Gozitan workers are conscious of this and they are of course unhappy with this situation.

Then there are the enormous financial difficulties that Gozitans face when studying or working in Malta. The costs are getting more excessive as time goes by. Parents have to fork out hundreds of Euros each and every month for their children for flat sharing, food and travel expenses.

If a Gozitan working in Gozo gets a promotion they have to cross over to Malta. Perhaps the promotion will better financially for say a 100 Euros per month, this will then have to be offset by the hiring of lodgings and extra food expenses. Not only will the extra 100 euros evaporate but in reality living costs will be more costly by far.

I know personally of many Gozitans who refused their promotions for these very reasons – apart from spending years separated and away from their families until such a time that they can return home to Gozo.

Those who want time to stand still in Gozo and are against the tunnel are not considering these issues, they are only thinking about own wishes. What about the Gozitan workers/students/businessmen’s hardships?

For these reasons my own evaluations have come to seeing the positive advantages of the tunnel project.

First that if the tunnel will in the future be used in the overall scheme of the present thinking of introducing to our islands an underground transport system such as one finds in Central Europe, this will be my first priority. This way Gozo will remain as is and as we now know it.

My personal opinion and strong conviction is to go for the first proposal of introducing an underground system from Gozo to Valletta.

If on the other hand, the tunnel will be for vehicle usage, then this will still solve most of the difficulties for Gozitans, as it will reduce time limitations and most of all connect Gozo with the outside world.

If the first system is introduced then vehicles, tourists both local and foreign, will still travel with, and by the Gozo ferries. Gozo ferries are in urgent need, and even at present another  TWO ferries should be introduced, not one.

The problem at present is that there is no berth in Gozo to take another ferry, let alone two. I do contradict this reasoning most strongly as one ferry catering only for cargo transportation, with side ramps as used to be the old ferries, have a mall ready for use in Mgarr. The second ferry can berth if the mall can be extended for berthing at the end of where one of the ferries berth.

As many individuals have dreams – so do I. I vision and dream of an innovative project that can most probably solve many Gozitan working problems.

Mgarr Harbour initially in 1955/6 had three proposals submitted by Lord Balogh Commission of how it should be. A small – medium and large Arms for the Port Extension. The small one was chosen as nobody envisioned the huge future workload creation by business in the Gozo Harbour.

I envision and have envisioned for quite some time now, an extensive enlargement of the Mgarr Harbour.

This by means of having two larger grandeurs arms prorating, one from before Xatt l-Ahmar in Mgarr, and the counterpart being constructed before one reaches Hondoq Ir-Rummien in Qala. This way both beaches will be protected.

These two suggested arms will serve for several aspects and solve many problems:

Gozo will have and achieve land reclamation and extend itself extensively.

The Cruise Liner Terminal can be constructed in this area.

Multiple super yachts berthing places can be available.

The crucial issue of our islands where to dump and getting rid of stones and the tunnel/others excavations can be used to form the Harbour Arms.

Underground facilities can be constructed to take yacht equipment when owners are away.

Parking facilities can also be provided underground.

These Yachts can provide more than enough working opportunities for Gozitans such as sailors – maintenance – crew – handymen – cooks – painters – chokers – electricians, assistants, etc., etc.

Not only will there be ample work for Gozitans, but it will also require more personnel.

The inner harbour as is at present can be used, as was in the past by Gozitan fishermen – small cruise tourist vessels and Gozitans in general who have small boats as a hobby.

Alternative new roads leading from Mgarr to other places to be constructed, as personally I did when taking office by widening the Mgarr main road leading to Ghajnsielem/Victoria.

The tunnel, if and when constructed, can serve as said for connectivity with the mainland and outside world.

Both sides of the different vision can say that they are happy with the forthcoming investments. That is if the option is implemented.

Lino Debono

Photograph by Alain Salvary

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    8 Responses

    1. anthony zammit says:

      You left me breathless! Dear Lino. You showed us how complicated and important this strip of sea is between our islands. I enjoyed reading all your thoughts and inputs. You gave me a fresh and detailed perspective.

      Yes although you put everything on the plate, even things many would not consider, you failed to mention what effect a fast ferry between Mgarr and Valletta would have!

      Some believe that such a service will suffice and solve most of the problems especially of Gozitans working in Malta. I even heard that it was stopped so its absence will generate a greater need for the tunnel.

      • Lino DeBono says:

        Anthony, I beg to differ on the effectiveness of the fast ferry service between Mgarr & Valletta. As indicated in the contract the fast ferry service route was to be directed to St Paul’s Bay – Sliema – Valletta and after also Cottonera Area.

        Also one has to take into consideration the previous two attempts that were introduced as fast ferry services.

        The 1st was the Aliscafi from Marsalforn to Sliema in late 60’s when Gozo enjoyed many Maltese residents in Marsalforn who all catered for this service. Price was 5 shillings each way. Very few used this service and it was stopped immediatley.

        Later in the late 80’s/90’s another fast ferry service “Hovercraft” was introduced from Mgarr to Valletta with a Sliema stoppage.
        This also was removed and stopped after some months.

        So both fast ferry services introduced and implemented didn’t have the satisfactory results one expected.

        Now people are clamouring for this kind of service once again. Personally I don’t believe this will be satisfactory to the Gozitan workers and commuters.

        Also Valletta does not hold many Gozitan workers or students as these have been allocated all over Malta, especially in villages as near Gozo as possible in order to shorten their travel.

        I opt for more Ferries, actually two, the first for cargo in order to separate this from the passengers (a side ramp vessel can do the job as a mall is already there in Mgarr) and another ferry for the passengers especially needed when a ferry goes in the Docks for maintenance.

        Ultimately I do prefer a sort of Underground Railway link to Valletta with interconnections stops in other areas. If not for now we can use the tunnel for cars until such time for a rail to be introduced.

        This will lessen so much hardships for Gozitan workers – students and intermingled families. Plus it will connect Gozo with the outside world.

    2. John Zammit says:

      The best way is the fast ferry way, direct from Mgarr in Gozo to the Grand Harbour, because with the tunnel when you go out from it before St. Paul’s Bay you will get caught in the traffic, and that is the problem, the traffic my friend Lino. The tunnel is not going to solve the delay when you are caught in the traffic.

    3. Dietmar Treptow says:

      Spend this money for Accomodation and life for the students – it will be enough for a lot of Student-generations !
      In other countries people moving to there Jobs . That the Gozitans dont use this option has a reason – the dont want stay in the over crouded main Island and the love there quiet Island .
      We need jobs for them here !

      • Lino DeBono says:

        Mr Treptow, I personally experienced climbing up a rope ladder after being transported by a boat from the Mgarr Jetty to the Gozo Ferry. The rough seas one used to experience crossings from the inadequate transportation was horrendous.

        Workers taking food and clothes to last them a week, on many occasions had to remain in Malta as the Ferry didn’t work for even three consecutive weeks. These incidents left Gozitan workers & students without – food – monies – clean clothing. A worker initially starts work in Malta and the time for the transfer was over 15 years.

        Experience and hardship experienced by Gozitans cannot just be assessed with one putting a pen to paper.

        Yes, as a Gozitan who had so much experience in travelling between Islands can vouch for this hardship.

        Co-incidentally Gozitans preferred going working abroad than a job in Malta as abroad one got better pay whilst still deprived of his/her family as happens if one does work in Malta.

        Therefore it is easy for one to write from an armchair position without experiencing the hardship of both past and present connectivity.

    4. Better Future says:

      Its one men’s opinion without knowing the environmental impact, the need to create more jobs in Gozo, build modern infrastructure to cut traffic jams. Above all is how much debt we are getting into. Never spend money that you can’t afford or more than the GDP otherwise we end up like Argentina.

    5. d n mossop says:

      Cruise liner terminal ,I hope you realise that liners nowadays have between 3500 to 6500 passengers,do you really want that many people
      coming on to the island all at once .

    6. Francesco Barone says:

      If you change the island people will leave, and you will lose millions of euros. I moved to Gozo from a big city for the tranquility of this island, if it will change many will leave taking their pensions and investments to quieter places. Do you really believe that people choose Gozo to live like a big city? I think that instead of the people who move here, they buy house and bring their money do it only for the tranquility and not to see the island turned into a small Abu Dhabi

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