The public transport reform, introducing Arriva on our streets, was a massive disaster.
Beppe Fenech Adami
The public transport reform has not worked. Full stop. This is the time to be clear and to face up to facts: The public transport reform has not worked and is not working. There can be no playing around with the facts, no spin. This was a great gamble by the government and it has not worked. In our view it is only the governments fault that the system has failed.
If there is one public service reform that has flopped in the last few years it must be public transport.
Editorjal, The Times 27.3.2013
Now, of course, there is no doubt in anybody’s mind that this has been one big mess.
Editorjal, The Times 4.11.2011
Lawrence Gonzi is making one mistake after another. First he refuses to accept Transport Minister Austin Gatt’s offer of resignation and then, immediately after he defends the minister in an opposition motion of no confidence in Dr Gatt, defeated only through the Speaker’s casting vote, he sets up a high-powered task force to take charge of the bus service reform. Not only that, but he appoints himself as leader of the task force. He does this at what is perhaps one of the most sensitive financial times when buffeting winds sweeping across so many countries would suggest that his best place is at the country’s helm all the time, not leading a task force to see how to make sense of a bus service reform. Insisting wrongs are righted is one thing but actually doing it yourself is another. …The mind simply boggles at the reasoning behind the setting up of the task force, which, by the way, is made up of Parliamentary Secretary Chris Said, the Police Commissioner, the commander of the Armed Forces of Malta, Transport Malta’s chairman, and ...wait for it... yes, the Transport Minister, Dr Gatt. This is really a super, super task force, more suitable to manage a national catastrophe than a reform in public transport.
Editorjal, The Times 10.11.2011
Whenever anything to do with the reform of the bus system was in offing, Minister Gatt was there for photo-ops. He was there when the contract was signed last November (when he savaged critics and doubters). He was there when the buses arrived. He was there on the eve of the launch. For all his denials now, how can he now distance himself from the Arriva fiasco?
Editorjal, The Malta Independent on Sunday 9.10.2011
With all the usual pomp, Dr Gatt and his assistant Manuel Delia drafted the routes, and those present at the Eden Cinemas a couple of years back remember the discourse and the absolute certainty that this was going to be one of the most advanced and comprehensive systems in Europe. What a load of codswallop. The routes are an absolute mess, and when this newspaper invited Dr Gatt and Manuel Delia to join us on a tour on the buses, they refused, point blank.
Editorjal The Malta Independent 07.10.2011
Some 27 routes have been restored, logically after they had been erased illogically. For example, this happened in Gżira, where hardly any bus service was available after 3 July. At least now the D’Argens route has been reinstated. What humble pie it must have been, that after years of study, the experts had to go back to square one. And now we learn that by September all will be well. Let’s hope that this biggest downfall will be rectified more than two months after the new service started. The districts I represent had many routes reinstated and this after quite a number of tabled PQs, emails by residents, and pages of letters on newspapers. I learnt, from a parliamentary question (in this case it was informative enough) that the circular council buses which accommodated so many residents, were swept away by Transport Malta too. I wonder if the Sliema council accepted such a move. My PQ 27671 refers. The Sliema council did not comment on this route, I was told. If this is so, who exactly is defending Sliema residents’ rights today? The mind boggles, as I thought that with so much dialogue and consultation said to be going on, these points would have been clear to any non expert, let alone the true experts.
Robert Arrigo, The Malta Independent 29.7.2011
The changes to the public transport service being introduced on Sunday have not addressed the significant problems tourists visiting Malta have been facing ever since the new transport service was introduced, the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association said. In a statement, MHRA President George Micallef expressed concern that the changes being introduced stopped short of addressing the complaints being made by visitors. "We have not come across any measures that will specifically address the concerns raised by most tourists. We have neither been consulted or received any information that gives us some comfort that things will improve by then, not by Malta Transport and much less by Arriva. We have recently asked Malta Transport to explain to us the planned changes that will lead to an end to the problems, but we have heard nothing," Mr Micallef said. Mr Micallef said that more than 300,000 visitors had used the new public transport service and the feedback by visitors was very negative. He said that although the situation did somewhat improve, the service was still nowhere near where it should be, and tourists continued to complain on a regular basis. "Complaints continue to come in. "Just this very morning, we received complaints from tourists who yesterday had to wait on a bus stop in the main road of St. Paul's Bay to catch a bus to Sliema from 8.15 p.m. and 9.30 p.m. after which they gave up, as all the buses that passed where full. These sorts of complaints are very common" Mr Micallef added. The MHRA explained that the main problems originated from commuters residing in the main tourist areas of Sliema/St Julians and Bugibba/Qawra, but there were also problems in other frequented areas in the north and south of Malta. The main reasons cited by commuters using the service appeared to be three - that the bus routes were far too long, that buses were often full, and that the advertised schedules were unreliable. timesofmalta.com Friday, September 9, 2011, 16:03
Notwithstanding all the hype and the high expectations raised by the transport authorities, including Transport Minister Austin Gatt himself and his closest aides, the arrival of Arriva has so far mainly served to transport eager commuters from the frying pan into the fire. … the much-vaunted public transport reform has left many an exasperated commuter to the extent that quite a few of them are willing to admit they were better served by the old system.
Editorjal, The Times 12.9.2011
I will take full responsibility for the routes. We always did, since they were designed by us. … We have altered 95 per cent of the routes.
Austin Gatt, The Sunday Times 16.10.2011
Confusion reigned at the Valletta bus terminus yesterday after some buses had to temporarily return to the original bus bays around the Tritons Fountain until the nearby terminus is extended. Buses serving the Sliema area have been allocated temporary bays around the fountain, last used as a terminus in July before the new Arriva service was introduced.
The Times 1.11.2011
Nearly half of the 36 vehicles that will be added to the existing Arriva fleet will be bendy buses that can accommodate up to 150 passengers and some will fall short of the Euro V emissions standard. Following an agreement between the Transport Ministry, Transport Malta and Arriva, the new buses will cater for the latest changes in the routes network, which will be launched on November 6.
The Times 29.10.2011
Backbencher Michael Gonzi, the Prime Minister’s brother, says the new bus service has not been an improvement over the old one. “On the contrary, St Paul’s Bay has become a prison in itself. We need the previous
The Times 17.10.2011
Bus routes will revert to the old system of each town and village having a direct link to Valletta and Mater Dei Hospital from next month as Transport Minister Austin Gatt admitted the new transport system had not worked. Describing these changes as “fundamental”, Dr Gatt shouldered responsibility for stuttering and highly criticised service and admitted the government had made a mistake.
The Sunday Times 16.10.2011
In the two months after the start of Arriva’s public transport service on July 3, its bus fleet suffered 144 mechanical failures. Answering a parliamentary question by Nationalist MP Jean Pierre Farrugia, Transport Minister Austin Gatt said the fleet had 78 second-hand buses, of which 50 were articulated and 28 taken over from the previous PTA service.
The Times 12.10.2011
Transport Malta has instructed Arriva to correct the names of bus stops along the Sliema front, Transport Minister Austin Gatt has confirmed. Nationalist MP Robert Arrigo pointed out that the bus stops named Exiles, Dud and Ghadir were wrongly placed and caused confusion since they were contrary to every map there was of Sliema. He also asked whether a better name than 'Dud' could be found for a bus stop. The minister confirmed that Transport Malta has asked Arriva to allocate the bus stop names properly according to their location. He said TM had noted the call for the name 'Dud' to be replaced, although, he said, this was a reference to Ghar id-Dud. Replying to another question, Dr Gatt said Transport Malta was reviewing every bus route on the basis of its use and suggestions made by commuters.
timesofmalta.com October 4, 2011, 16:05
Balzan residents will today start collecting signatures petitioning Transport Malta to re-route the bus service through the town’s main street. Around 30 residents gathered in the town square yesterday to voice their frustration about the situation and the fact that buses passing through the Balzan centre did not go directly to Valletta. This is the second petition by a locality protesting against bus routes. Last month Marsascala residents living in Tas-Siberia, the largest residential zone in the town, started a petition demanding the reinstatement of a direct bus route to Valletta, which would cover the Cerviola, Jerma and St Thomas areas.
The Times 22.9.2011
Disgruntled commuters have, over the past weeks, turned to their local councils to voice concern about changes in bus routes when Arriva took over the public transport service in July, which, they say, has made it more difficult for them to reach their destination on time. Nationalist Pietà mayor Malcolm Mifsud said the system “isn’t working” and people have started looking for an alternative way to reach their destination, giving up on the service. He said people were, “quite understandably”, comparing the present service with the previous one, when route bus 75, running between Mater Dei Hospital and Valletta, would take 15 minutes to reach the city from Pietà. The local council was inundated with complaints from residents and Dr Mifsud said donors had been finding it difficult to travel by bus to the Blood Bank adjacent to St Luke’s Hospital.
The Times 16.9.2011
Transport service changes introduced by Arriva on Sunday have not led to a satisfactory improvement in the public transport service, according to a random survey conducted by hoteliers between Monday and Tuesday in core tourism areas - particularly in Sliema, St Julians, Bugibba, Qawra and Mellieha. In a media release, the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association said that the results also show that the complaints raised by tourists and the MHRA over the past weeks persist, contrary to what was reported in a statement issued by the Ministry of Transport. It said the feedback by visitors was overall negative with some visitors complaining vociferously about the long waits and that the service was not of an acceptable standard. The fact that buses are very often full up and the unreliability of the schedules also remained critical issues.
timesofmalta.com September 14, 2011, 12:16
The changes to the public transport service being introduced on Sunday have not addressed the significant problems tourists visiting Malta have been facing ever since the new transport service was introduced, the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association said. In a statement, MHRA President George Micallef expressed concern that the changes being introduced stopped short of addressing the complaints being made by visitors. "We have not come across any measures that will specifically address the concerns raised by most tourists. We have neither been consulted or received any information that gives us some comfort that things will improve by then, not by Malta Transport and much less by Arriva. We have recently asked Malta Transport to explain to us the planned changes that will lead to an end to the problems, but we have heard nothing," Mr Micallef said. Mr Micallef said that more than 300,000 visitors had used the new public transport service and the feedback by visitors was very negative.
timesofmalta.com September 9, 2011, 16:03
Minister Austin Gatt’s belligerent speech at last Saturday’s signing of the public transport agreement with Arriva beggars belief, even in a country used, or over-used, to Dr Gatt’s verbal intemperance.
Editorjal, The Malta Independent 24.11.2010
Our sister Sunday paper last week carried a report on the sorry sight at the new and just inaugurated bus terminus at City Gate. Not only were the seven kiosks there built far later than they were meant to, but also they have not been consigned to those who will man them. As a result, only one is being used, by Arriva. Of the rest, three have had their glass windows broken and four are without doors, so that people are sorely tempted to use them as public toilets – given the ones available are on the far side. Things, in that respect, have gone from bad to worse. At least the initial plan was very good to look at – if only all the kiosks were ready on time. Even so, and despite the need to bring into play huge tents to cover passengers from the summer sun, it was well organised. Buses unloaded passengers next to the Christ the King monument and the buses each had their bus lane in the proper place. Then, when the people rose in anger at the chaos, more bus services were laid on and the increase of buses going to Valletta necessitated the changes that took place – buses thenceforth let their passengers down back in the semicircle around the Tritons’ fountain and things were back to how they were before – a serious letdown for a government that put so much store on the novel traffic system. Since then, things have stagnated. Despite the frequent government statements that things will soon get back to how they were, nothing has happened. Even the task force set up by the prime minister has been forgotten as nothing else has been heard of it. Now, we have this kiosk saga. This, however, is not all.
Editorjal, The Malta Independent 1.2.2012
The GRTU today branded Arriva a disaster and requested government to take action since its bad management goes beyond reasonable comprehension. … “One year later, the problems that were there, and that all of us optimists believed to be temporary, have now not only become permanent but the delays and inefficient service have actually increased. Adding to the burdens that commuters are suffering on a day to day basis because of Arriva that had started relatively more customer friendly than the previous regime, Arriva has now become increasingly arrogant. Hardly a day passes that the GRTU does not receive complaints and stories of incredible misbehaviour by Arriva personnel,” the GRTU said. “Arriva gives the impression that they simply do not care. It is obvious that Arriva is incapable of resolving its own problems. Its bad management goes beyond any reasonable comprehension. It is now up to government to take action. Malta deserves much better.”
di-ve.com news 10.8.2012
Speaking in the debate on Xarabank last Friday, Prime Minister Gonzi finally admitted what everybody else knows – that the Arriva service is not there yet. To date, neither he nor Minister Austin Gatt have not taken up the challenge made by this paper months ago, for them to go on unannounced, private, trips on an Arriva bus, wait at a bus stop like everybody else, see whether they keep to the timetables set up at each bus stop, monitor the quality of the service, see whether they get to their destination on time, etc. The fact that they have not taken up the challenge means a lot. It’s not that they are scared of the reactions of fellow travellers. They, Minister Gatt especially, milked every occasion they could to pose for photos in the new buses only to drop the new baby the moment it was born and revealed itself as less than perfect. The issue of Arriva is a complicated one. It is a private service but the government intended to use it to boast about its miracle-making abilities. So when things go wrong, the government tries to point fingers at the service and tells us it is a private service; but then it sort of remains fully committed to its success and its lack of making it is a bad mark on this government’s record. Hence the prime minister’s words last Friday. There was a time when the government actually boasted about the amount of fines it levied on the company for non-compliance with the tender. Since then, we have heard nothing more. And, frankly, since then, the service has not improved. To list the faults would take the entire paper. Suffice it to list the clear commitments that were made and which have not been implemented:
- We, the public, were promised an SMS service (to enter into service last July) which tells a commuter on a bus stop at what time to expect the next bus. That never materialised.
- One huge complaint regards ... complaints. There is a customer care service of sorts to which people call, only to be told the complaint is being taken care of. But Arriva never comes back to the complainant and tells him what action has been taken.
- The quality of the buses themselves is deteriorating. Most show signs of collisions and this, in turn, shows a bad level of drivers. We all know that driving on Malta’s roads is difficult but no company would tolerate having a fleet of buses with so many accidents on record.
The cherry on the cake is the recent accident at Portes des Bombes. An accident, is an accident; is an accident. The gradient of that stretch is very dangerous, especially when the roasd is slippery. Yet hundreds of trucks, concrete mixers, etc pass through and not one has ever skidded into the Portes. Arriva said they would be investigating, but no result has been made public. The frequent accidents, the multiple breakdowns and the sight of so many buses being towed away all point to the slipshod way in which the drivers have been recruited, trained and are managed. Maybe it is just an impression, but that is what you get when you are pressed to have the service up and running, when half your workforce has let you down and when you push people into driving big, huge buses with next to no training or no proper training at all. For all the middle management getting into complicated tangles and wasting people’s times over mysterious paperwork, the system is not working. Nor, and this is perhaps the main complaint, is it all that different from the past system. Mainly, it is still a service with no smile, the drivers exhibit no real courtesy with passengers and they have not been trained, nor do they seem monitored. On second thoughts, neither the prime minister nor Dr Gatt should be welcome on an Arriva bus right now. They should have done so in the dark days of summer 2011 when people waited for hours on a badly-designed service when no buses turned up. Instead, the two ministers jetted around in their Jaguars and people wilted in the sun. No, they are not welcome now.
Editorjal, The Malta Independent 7.11.2012
That Arriva never measured up to the public’s expectations (except in Gozo which was very well served) is a fact. That Arriva did not roll out all the services it promised is true as well. That the first months of the new service was pure mayhem is an under-statement. That the routes, as first conceived, were chaotic and convoluted goes without saying.
Editorjal, The Malta Independent 1.1.2014
Most of the criticism, we readily admit, was more than justified. The chaos that accompanied the launch of Arriva was incredible. The routes were badly designed and you could get a tour round half Malta to get anywhere.
Editorjal, The Malta Independent 13.1.2015
Based on the Halcrow findings, then transport minister Austin Gatt shunned the tram option and the government shifted its focus to revamping the bus service, which later turned out to be a massive failure.
Timesofmalta.com Wednesday, October 5, 2016, 16:08
Austin Gatt ma gabx l-Arriva ghalih. Hu ghandu l-Jaguar li hallast ghaliha int ukoll.
L-Arriva gabha ghalina.
Tlett bendy buses tal-Arriva
jiehdu n-nar fi tlett incidenti separati f'Awwissu 2013
Tinsewx li Austin Gatt hallas 400,000 lill-konsulenti dwar ir-riforma fit-trasport pubbliku. Flus mohlija fi zmien ta krizi ekonomika.
On March 12, I was waiting on bus stop Katarina, in front of the M4 market in Attard, to go to
The Times 2.4.2012