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Public transport in Malta

From left: Patrick Buhagiar, Michelle Grech and Joseph Xuereb Carmichael

From left: Patrick Buhagiar, Michelle Grech and Joseph Xuereb Carmichael

What is your final verdict of Arriva’s short stint in Malta?

It was bound to happen. I think Arriva had the potential to excel at the beginning, but the bus system was not implemented efficiently enough. The best routes introduced were those from the airport while those involving narrow roads suffered the most. Patrick Buhagiar, 19, 2nd year, BSc (Hons) Computing Science.

When I first used Arriva, the service was much better than the previous one where we had no air conditioning, no convenient online time schedule and no customer support. In the long run Arriva had its flaws – we waited for buses that were off schedule or too full. The lack of proper bus shelters did not help.

I realised how much better the service could be when I went to Germany on an Erasmus exchange and experienced the buses there. In fact, this prompted me to get my driving licence as soon as possible. Michelle Grech, 22, 1st year, Bachelor of Laws (Hons).

Arriva brought some much-needed changes to transportation in Malta. The only problem was that the new routes were introduced at once. It should have been better thought out. Most people were not ready to accept such radical changes.

In Gozo I never faced any problems and buses were always on time. In Malta, people failed to realise that planning earlier is essential when taking the bus during rush hours, since getting stuck in traffic cannot be avoided. Joseph Xuereb Carmichael, 22, 2nd year, Mcast Higher National Diploma in Business.

Was terminating the contract with Arriva the right solution? Do you agree that a Maltese operator should take over?

Terminating the contract does not solve anything. The real reason why Arriva failed, and why other operators, Maltese or not, will also find difficulties, is the state of our roads. Finding a Maltese operator won’t make that much of a difference. All that matters is that we have an efficient transport system. Patrick Buhagiar

It was the right solution since Arriva had many economic problems. Their reputation was shattered due to the bendy bus incidents, and they did not handle the crisis well from a PR point of view.

I agree that the Maltese should now take over, and the solution is to take into consideration all complaints and suggestions made to Arriva and to improve the system from there. A Maltese operator should be given a chance, since various experts determined to succeed can be found locally. Michelle Grech

Terminating the contract was not the right solution. The problem originates from the buses themselves, which are still in use.

I would not mind if a Maltese operator took over since I believe we are capable of offering such a service. But there have to be strict rules.

First of all, the quality of the service is very important, and a professional attitude is essential. In fact, the most significant change the foreign operators brought about was the improved attitude. Joseph Xuereb Carmichael

What would be your ideal public transport system for Malta?

I think a bus service remains the most practical type of transport for Malta. Introducing a train or underground for just 400,000 people, where only a small percentage actually use the system, would be extremely irresponsible. In an ideal system, tickets should be bought beforehand since this was one of the many reasons why Arriva buses were almost never on schedule.

It would also help if buses had more than one entrance and people were to just hop on and punch their tickets in a machine inside, which is common practice abroad. Patrick Buhagiar

I think a tram or underground system in Malta would solve so many problems (less traffic and accidents, on-schedule public transport, environmentally friend­ly). A mock tube map was recently created by a Maltese person and shared online, showing possible connections between the different localities. Of course, there is a fine line between the possible and ideal; such a system would be costly and would take ages to be completed, but would truly benefit future generations. Such a system could also lead to less cars being purchased. Michelle Grech

I rarely complained about Arriva. I thought the vehicles were good considering the luggage space, adequate seating for those who needed it, and air conditioning during summer. What would be ideal is better management, and also possibly open-top buses rather than bendy buses. Joseph Xuereb Carmichael

Interviews conducted by Insite – the Student Media Organisation.

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