More than 100 commuters, mainly tourists in beachwear, were left stranded for more than an hour under the baking sun at the makeshift Qawra bus terminus yesterday morning.
“It’s shameful. We’ve been waiting for one hour and we are worried we’ll miss our 2 p.m. flight,” Marco and Patrizia Ferretti from Italy said.
In the whole hour they waited on the Valletta/Mosta bus stop, three buses passed by and they still did not get on.
In the middle of the strong smell of coconut oil, the bus dispatcher blamed the delay problem on the transition to the Arriva service, which should start on July 3, saying the problem had been encountered all week.
Bus drivers, he said, had either moved on to driving smaller private vehicles or were undergoing training with the new provider, significantly diminishing the fleet.
To exacerbate the problem, the previous terminus in the square was undergoing a facelift to prepare it for the new operator, leaving people lined up against the long wall with no shelter against the blistering sun. A local, who preferred to remain anonymous, said the terminus was always crowded but never as badly as yesterday. Last week, Public Transport Association president Victor Spiteri had said the yellow bus system was struggling to cope with servicing routes as more and more drivers and ticketing inspectors had resigned to work with the new operator.
Since then Transport Malta has stepped in to ease the burden by helping with dispatching.
According to a handful of British tourists, problems in the changeover were to be expected. They complained, however, that a part of the country’s culture would be lost with the new buses.
“Malta should be like Malta, the old buses, the old ways – that’s what tourists come to see,” Veronica Cawston from the UK said.
Malta was changing too fast, she said, her husband agreeing. The couple have been coming to Malta for 20 years.
This was echoed by another four British tourists, who had been waiting for over 45 minutes. “Stick to the Maltese buses, that’s your character in Malta,” Ann and Dave Johns said.
During the time that The Times was at the terminus, two buses arrived together somewhat relieving the long queue. However, some passengers were still not lucky enough to get on.