An idea floated by an architect to connect Sliema and Valletta with a footbridge spanning Marsamxett Harbour has received mixed reviews on social media.

The proposal would help in the regeneration of the lower part of Valletta, according to Konrad Xuereb, who is based in London.

Dr Xuereb’s idea is to span the 400-metre distance between Tigné Point in Sliema and the gun post on Valletta’s ramparts with a pedestrian bridge to encourage people to walk to the capital.

The bridge, he said, would cost around €8 million.

READ: Imagine a pedestrian bridge between Valletta and Sliema

But while some have applauded the idea, others have lashed out at what they believe would compromise the Valletta cityscape.

On a more technical level, others have questioned the viability of a narrow pedestrian bridge spanning an open harbour that is prone to the very strong north-easterly wind.

Whether Dr Xuereb’s idea is taken up remains to be seen but for the older generations, it rekindled memories of another grand project proposed almost 60 years ago to bridge Marsamxett Harbour.

Known as the aerial ropeway, the project involved a cable car connection between St Anne Square on the Sliema Ferries and Hastings Garden in Valletta.

The one kilometre distance between the proposed points would have seen the cable car overpass Manoel Island.

First proposed in 1958 by Edward Vincenti Kind, the aerial ropeway was turned down by the colonial government in 1960, mainly on aesthetic grounds but also because it was not economically viable.

It was proposed again a few years later under the Nationalist administration of George Borg Olivier.

Details of the proposed project were uncovered when the secret Cabinet papers were released three years ago at the National Archives in Rabat.

A three-page memorandum presented to Cabinet at the time by the infrastructure ministry gave details of the project.

The plans were subsequently amended to shift the Sliema end of the project onto a platform at The Strand. The ropeway would have passed across Marsamxett Harbour, passing over the tip of Manoel Island where a supporting pylon would have had to be erected.

A 61-metre-high steel structure (three of the new gas power station chimneys at Delimara are 75 metres high) would have been needed at The Strand.

The British naval authorities had no objection provided there was a minimum clearance over the harbour of 46 metres.

The Antiquities Committee also did not object as long as the Valletta-side station would not be less than three metres from the bastion.

The Aesthetics Board had said it would not object if the government considered the project “economically desirable and in the national interest”.

Despite a news report on Times of Malta in 1964 quoting Mr Vincenti Kind saying indications were that the government was soon to give its decision on the permit, the project never materialised.

Till today, connecting the capital and Sliema across the harbour remains a dream with the only direct link being a ferry service.


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