Admission of failure - Steve Pace

Earlier this month, residents of Attard met up with Transport Malta-appointed electrical engineer Fredrick Azzopardi and architect Robert Zerafa, to discuss the proposed project code-named Attard Bypass. Silvio Scerri, who was expected to attend, and the Transport Minister were not present. Their role would have been to come to explain to us, residents and farmers, the benefits of a new by-pass leading from Mrieħel to Wied Inċita.

The meeting began with the engineer explaining in an eloquent and controlled manner the traffic issues Attard is facing. He explained that the residents of Attard generally agreed to the new project as they felt that traffic going through Attard had reached an unsustainable level and needed to be addressed.

The architect explained in some detail how the project would work. He used a 3D presentation which he said was in no way an exact scale replica of the final product. He also used several plans that were not updated and above all on many occasions made it clear that the project was a proposed “attempt” at resolving the traffic issues.

It was then time for questions. I was the first one to speak and decided to go one step back and put forward the already known fact that in Malta the number of cars is increasing by the day.

In March 2017, the number of cars stood at 361,552 and by June 2017 it shot up to 365,483, increasing the volume of cars on the road from 29 to an average of 43 cars per day. I said that in five years’ time the number of cars on the road would go up by approximately 79,000.

I suggested that the widening of roads, the irreversible destruction of more pristine ODZ agricultural land and the creation of diversions were in no way addressing the underlying problems but were a cosmetic exercise.

This project is a panic button with no foresight on the consequences it will have on the residents, farmers and the whole community of Attard

I added the project was indeed the final admission of failure by the government and Transport Malta to recognise that the transport system needs to be regarded as a national issue and that a feasible long-term holistic solution is needed. With the number of cars increasing every day, such a project is a short-term solution which has an everlasting effect on the lives of those who live in  the direct line of fire. This project is a panic button with no foresight on the consequences it will have on the residents, farmers and the whole community of Attard.

As a conclusion I asked the engineer to tell us how many tumuli or acres of ODZ agricultural land were being sacrificed for the project. He said my comment was a purely critical statement and in no way had anything to contribute to the discussion about the project itself.

Avoiding any acknowledgement of the facts I put forward, he proceeded to explain to us, gullible peasants, that a sample of traffic taken revealed that during rush hours, the number of cars passing through Notary Zarb Street produced a high peak.

He said this information was processed in a special software which proposes a solution and his concluding statement was that what we have today is the result of this new model blender machine.

Without going into too much detail as to how the remaining pseudo-discussion progressed, or rather degenerated, and without delving into the details of so many serious alternative proposals presented by many other residents, the overall understanding was that this meeting was a staged act.

It was a deliberate insult to our intelligence and just another arrogant exercise by Transport Malta and the minister to mow over citizens.

Their aim is clear. The destruction of the last remaining breathing spaces, making the residents of Notary Zarb and Oliver Agius streets a two-way roundabout, obliterating more than 150 tumuli of ODZ pristine agricultural land, and the destruction of  the livelihoods of  farmers at all costs.

Steve Pace is a company director and ICT consultant.

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