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Old meets the new

Elderly boat passengers approve of harbour ferry and lift

The trip lasted just eight minutes, but seven elderly men who took the ferry to Valletta out of curiosity managed a heated debate about the current state of political affairs, the new Upper Barrakka lift, the progress of the dockyard project and the depleted state of fishing.

The driver of the 12-passenger dinghy called Ariel listened as he steered the boat to Lascaris wharf from Cospicua.

The passengers aboard Ariel were initially suspicious of the “lanċa” at first, but they soon agreed that taking the ferry was the most convenient way to reach Valletta, especially since the lift saved them climbing the tiring slope to the capital.

The ferry service connecting The Three Cities to Valletta came into operation earlier this month, coinciding with the opening of the lift to the Upper Barrakka gardens.

Passengers are entitled to use the lift for free on the same day, and the men, who wanted to make the best out of the 90c return fare, continued their debate as they were whizzed up 58 metres to the Upper Barrakka Gardens.

The lift was built on the site of the original Barrakka elevator that remained in service until 1970, and a sign from those days, which reads ‘The Barrakka lift, the quickest way into the city’, was unveiled during the inauguration.

This statement is still true today, when it takes a commuter from Paola 20 minutes to drive to Cospicua, park, and take the ferry to Valletta during rush hour. A trip from Paola to the capital by car at the same time would sometimes take more than 45 minutes. Using the ferry also helps save on parking fees.

One of the passengers agreed it was the most convenient method of travel but quipped that plans would suffer if it was too windy. Just a few days after the lift was inaugurated, Transport Malta said the elevator was equipped with an automatic cut-off safety device and it had stopped operating temporarily because of gale force winds.

Although sheltered from three sides, Grand Harbour is exposed to northerly winds, the driver explained, adding he had to layer up with scarves and a thick jacket.

There were plans to replace the boat with a much larger one that takes more than 100 people, which would offer more shelter from the winds and rain, until one able to carry some 160 people arrives from abroad.

In winter, the Grand Harbour ferry service, operated by Marsamxetto Steamferry Services Limited, runs from Monday to Saturday between 7am and 6pm and between 10am and 4pm on Sundays and public holidays.

Throughout summer the service will operate between 7am and 7pm and between 9am and 6pm on Sundays and public holidays.

Transport Malta set the maximum fares at €1.50 per adult and 50c for children under 12, Kartanzjan holders and blue badge holders for a one-way trip.

Fares for return tickets have been set at €2.80 per adult and 90c for children under 12, Kartanzjan holders and blue badge holders. Weekly passes are available for €10.

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