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New minibus service to compete with Arriva

They may not have been doing it for long but the red minivans shuttling between Blata l-Bajda and Valletta became a part of the traffic landscape since they started operating the park and ride service more than four years ago.

Almost five million passengers have taken the short ride in and out of Valletta but come July 3 the red minivans will no longer operate the service. The park and ride facility will pass on to the new public transport operator, Arriva, and it will no longer remain free of charge.

But even though red will make way for Arriva's aqua marine, the minivans will not disappear from the roads and they will still be making regular trips into Valletta, only this time they will be departing from towns and villages around Malta.

The cooperative that runs the minivan service will run a transport service that takes passengers from their home towns directly to Valletta. The service, christened Home to Work Connect, will come at a charge, which the cooperative says will cost less than €1 per trip.

Chris Cilia, legal adviser of Coop Services Ltd, said the transport reform brought new challenges to minivan owners. " The cooperative was not compensated in any way by the government as other transport operators were. But, instead of complaining, it is being proactive and creating business opportunities for its members," Dr Cilia said.

This week, the cooperative was distributing leaflets to passengers announcing the new service and, according to Dr Cilia, the response has been encouraging.

"It is very similar to the business the cooperative had in the past when it used to transport factory workers from home to work. This time, we are offering a service from all localities, except Ċirkewwa, to Valletta and in the future we hope to expand the network," he said, adding that one of the advantages of the service was that it would transport passengers directly into Valletta.

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