GBC has been promoting Gozo tunnel proposal for last ten years – Borg
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Mr Joseph Borg, President of the Gozo Business Chamber (GBC), participated in the recent debate about the Gozo-Malta tunnel organised by Wirt Ghawdex.
He thanked Wirt Ghawdex for the invitation and for their initiative to hold this debate, and during his presentation of the GBC’s opinion on the Gozo-Malta tunnel, Mr Borg pointed out that the proposal had been promoted by the Chamber for the last ten years.
In fact the Chamber had already started mentioning a permanent link between the islands more than twenty years ago, the same time the GBC was founded,” Mr Borg said.
One of the first public meetings was held in February 2011, eight years ago, and in March 2011 in the publication of the GBC, Isle Link the GBC stated that, “the question of a permanent link, has now gathered irreversible momentum.”
Adding that, “since January of the present year (i.e. 2011), when the debate was brought up to the forefront on the national media, what had always been a dream in the mind of a number of people, has become a possibility within the grasp of a people”.
Mr Borg continued by saying that when this idea was put forward in 2011 and Eivind Grov, Chief Scientist and Professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology was appointed as consultant to the Maltese Government, “there was general consensus of the Gozitan constituted bodies who all backed the political responsibility assumed by the Government to study the matter further.”
He remarked how the GBC was instrumental in pushing forward the subsea tunnel on the policy agenda.
In February 2015, Mr Borg said that the Chamber took the initiative to commission Dr Gordon Cordina to conduct a study on the economic and financial feasibility of alternative solutions towards providing connectivity between the Island of Gozo and the main Island of Malta.
He said that Transport Malta in a short time came on board and in September 2015 the report was published.
Mr Borg explained that the economic analysis presented in the report took into consideration the following factors: (i) effects on traffic flows on economic activity in Gozo; (ii) effects on vehicle traffic and waiting times; (iii) implications for the costs of fuel used; and (iv) climate change and pollution effects. The proposal had also been on the electoral programme of both parties for consecutive legislatures.
Mr Borg highlighted how the debates and studies on this initiative have been ongoing. “Though the Gozo Channel Company is performing to the best of its capabilities the service has reached saturation point and a complete meltdown of the service is being risked,” argued Mr Borg.
The Chamber is in favour of introducing a fourth ferry, the fast ferry and also the helicopter service, and that these options should materialise sooner rather than later,” said Mr Borg. “However, we cannot just stay throwing proposals into discussion.”
Mr Borg also pointed out the current plight of various segments of society including, he said, “that of Gozitan commuters, patients, students and tourists over the current state of affairs.”
He remarked how this project would benefit not only Gozo but also Malta, “as services would not always need to be duplicated, and Gozo would also be able to specialise on particular services forming part of a national network serving the entire Maltese population.”
He also indicated how this project would “ease traffic from roads and would help address the problem of ageing and dwindling communities that Gozo is experiencing.”
Mr Borg acknowledged that “while the tunnel is not the solution to all the problems it can be a road to a future of sustainable investment which the Chamber would be willing to suggest to the Authorities, while in no way harming the environment if the proper plans are in place.”
He concluded by saying that, “it is now time to act as further delays will risk putting the future of Gozo and its population at risk.”
Photograph: Gozo Business Chamber