Familiar complaints about the foreign bidder, Arriva
They may not be quite as bad as the complaints the Maltese are used to making about the local bus service, but the international company earmarked to take over Malta’s public transport system is hardly given rave reviews.
“Slightly better than travelling by wheelie bin down the M4,” says one British online reviewer about Arriva, the company that boasts of employing more than 42,000 people in 12 EU countries.
Arriva is the main member of the consortium named the preferred bidder to take over Malta’s transport reform. It is currently in negotiations with Transport Malta in the hope that the long-awaited reformed system will be in place by March.
Review websites dooyoo.co.uk and reviewcentre.com give Arriva poor average ratings of between one and two stars out of five.
Reviewers from the user generated websites complain about Arriva’s dirty and old buses, constantly hiked up prices, arrogant bus drivers, unreliable timing and poor customer service.
One reviewer from Merseyside described the buses as “filthy, dirty things which are poorly maintained” and said ticket prices increased three times in as many weeks to “unreasonably high” levels.
Even her description of the bus drivers may seem too close to home: “They look like convicts... their attitude stinks.”
Other reviewers complain about the bus drivers’ racist and aggressive attitude as well as their “no-change-scam”, where passengers are forced to pay extra because the drivers say they do not have enough small change – a complaint recently made locally.
“The difference is then pocketed by the drivers,” another review claims.
Although most complaints on the websites are negative, some reviewers describe Arriva as a decent and reliable service.
One reviewer felt it was his duty to write a positive review because he got 50p off his fare when the bus was three minutes late.
However, he pointed out this was not always the case: “Sometimes I find that some (drivers) are very ignorant, rude and couldn’t care less about the customers.”
Another points out that Arriva London received the most complaints out of all London bus operators for rudeness, dangerous driving and damaging other people’s cars. This was reported in newspapers in 2004, and a quick Google search reveals Arriva is no stranger to negative publicity.
When contacted, a spokesman for Arriva in Malta said that until negotiations Transport Malta were concluded the company could not fully engage with the press.
However, she said the company was publicly committed to address complaints about current services.
“Arriva values its customers and takes complaints seriously,” she added. The company has committed itself to a complete revamp of Malta’s notorious service.
Regarding fares, a Transport Malta spokesman said Arriva was not given the opportunity to propose alternative fare structures in the tendering process. “The prices for the ticket structure were fixed in the tender and were published at a press conference on October 2009 on the eve of the circulation of the tender process with potential bidders.”
In the price structure proposed by the government when the reform was announced, a day ticket costs €2.10.