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New Year in, Arriva out

Arriva’s ill-fated two-and-a-half-year journey in Malta comes to an end on January 2. Photo: Ian Pace

Arriva’s ill-fated two-and-a-half-year journey in Malta comes to an end on January 2. Photo: Ian Pace

Arriva will be nationalised on January 2, marking the end of the transport company’s ill-fated two-and-a-half-year journey in Malta.

Sources said final negotiations between Transport Malta and Arriva have focussed on an orderly transition that will see Arriva managers stay on for a period of time until TM officials are trained.

But the change will be invisible for commuters, sources told Times of Malta yesterday.

“January 2 will be business as usual for commuters because what will happen is a change of shareholding.”

Meanwhile, the General Workers’ Union will be meeting Transport Minister Joe Mizzi today to discuss the fate of the company’s workers.

GWU transport section secretary Jeremy Camilleri said yesterday the union will insist that all workers be retained by whoever takes over the public transport service.

The appeal was repeated by the Nationalist Party. “Any solution the government finds must lead to a better service and ensure that none of Arriva’s employees lose their job.”

The PN also called on the government to remove uncertainty by outlining its plans for the sector.

It insisted that the process to choose an alternative operator should be transparent.

Arriva, a subsidiary of German firm Deutsche Bahn, was on a 10-year exclusive contract but is be­lieved to have lost some €35 million since 2011 when it took over the public transport system.

January 2 will be business as usual for commuters because what will happen is a change in shareholders

Sources said nationalisation was the “cleanest option” for the government because it enabled it to buy back Arriva’s exclusive operating licence and ensure the service continued to be given.

It will come at a cost for the government but the move averts the option of company liquidation, which would have led to a lengthy legal battle as assets remained frozen, disrupting the service.

However, the government has no intention of remaining the owner and will eventually issue a call for expressions of interest to rope in another private operator.

Sources said Arriva was not in a position to invest in new buses to cater for the extensive route changes planned by thegovernment.

The company was also expected to pump in more money to replace the 68 bendy buses that were struck off the road by the transport regulator after three incidents in which they caught fire.

The government was prepared to increase the subsidy to compensate for the additional kilometres Arriva would have covered as a result of the changes but there was disagreement on the size of the financial package.

Arriva’s service was beset by problems despite investing in the training of drivers and the use of environmentally cleaner buses.

Matters were made worse by the ill-designed routes presented by Transport Malta two years ago that have been changed a couple of times to suit commuters.

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