Fabian Demicoli

B-Day Sunday 3rd July: At Last Arriva

 GRTU Malta Chamber of SMEs warmly welcomes Arriva. We wish Arriva all the very best. GRTU has from the very beginning of the whole Public Transport Reform Programme been grossly enthusiastic and we have consistently given our support to Minister Austin Gatt the man behind the Reform. Indeed probably if it weren't for Austin Gatt we would not have believed that this B-Day would ever come. Austin Gatt is a mover. We felt from close range his enthusiasm for this project. This is a project which is the life-blood for all retailers in major commercial sectors and GRTU could not stay on the way-side.

 

GRTU through the Director General Vince Farrugia drew from the very start a position so at GRTU we all knew where we had to go and what we had to achieve.

First we identified the options; Government had either to:

1) Nationalize what was eventually a private monopoly

OR

2) Issue the whole National bus system or public tender for all contractors to provide all the services and to manage the whole system

  OR

  3) Liberalize the market to different operators so that they could enter the market and compete

The consultation in which GRTU took a very active part, led to the decision that the best option was a tender to appoint one professional private company.

GRTU's next major involvement was to ensure that Bus Owners who were all private self-employed entrepreneurs received enough options to join the new system or else being adequately compensate. Maltese Bus owners had their own independent association but GRTU as the National Organisation representing the self-employed was eager to give all its support to the Bus Owners Association.

The Bus Owners of Gozo are all members of GRTU so GRTU was also directly involved in the negotiations. It is hard for a self-employed to give up his business for whatever the price. For a self-employed his business is his life.

A bureaucrat can never appreciate this. But we daily walk with the skin of the self-employed and we feel what they feel. For Gozo Owners GRTU got an excellent deal: they got the compensation for losing the Public bussing contract, but they retained the bus which they could use as licensees to operate the unscheduled bus service in Gozo and this private bussing service license is valid for both Malta & Gozo. The Maltese Bus Owners got only the money compensation and a first option on jobs with the new sevice.

The next big step for GRTU was to ensure that the New Bus Network covered adequately all Commercial centres. GRTU strongly believed that the cost of the private car for each household is too high as a ratio of a family's budget and that most families given an effective Public Transport System would switch to more bus use. Valletta shopping is already 70% dependent on bussing. This will be a rule for most commercial retailers soon. So GRTU joined the discussion and consultation practically on all locations defending the interests of retailers and service providers.

Sunday July 3 is B-Day. We are satisfied with most of what Arriva is offering and we are confident it will improve. Our trust is also in the man who worked most to get the whole project through Manuel Delia. Manuel is a formidable person; hard but very capable and also a good listener.

We argued and spend hours of discussion and reams of paper in correspondence. But we say it loud and clear – if only there were others like Manuel Delia's in the public sector. Thank You Manuel.

Congratulations to all. Let's keep working to get it better

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