Fabian Demicoli

Buses: How not to look stupid!

 The new bus schedules and practical running experience is definitely positive. Only the very ambitious expected that in July the complete overhaul of Malta's public transport system would immediately go in perfect synchronisation. Has anything in Malta ever been perfect? Definitely not the busing system.

 

Malta's old bus system was probably the worst in the whole of Europe, more a resemblance of Africa and the poorest Latin American countries than anything that by any stretch of the imagination can be called European. GRTU struggled hard to obtain for the self-employed bus owners of the old system the best compensation package possible and would have loved to extend its knowledge and expertise to assist the new system to develop a service that meets the best interests of commuters and business operators in the various commercial centres spread throughout Malta.

Unfortunately the consultation did not work well. The fault, if we are really honest, is of all of us. We all knew that the big change was coming but most of us never bothered. We at GRTU raised a long list of issues from various districts based on consultations we held independently of Government. We could only act on the issues that were raised with us. The vast majority however did not bother. Even Local Councils failed to give this important issue the top priority it should have been given. There were mayors who only looked at the disk showing how the new public transport system was going to affect their locality only when the new system started and complaints started coming in.  Whatever the process when the system started, the failures of lack of proper consultations began to surface. Many of these issues have now been dealt with in the second phase of the bus reform announced as of 11/09. The system is still not perfect. In addition to the many great advantages of the new system when compared the horrible old system the whole schedule now is much better. It is still not perfect and we do not believe it will be perfected in the absence of at least one full year experience. But let us all be honest. We have now a system of busing that makes little Malta proud. New buses that are air-conditioned and of top class quality and no comparison to the old bone shakes of only a year ago, for most people who travel and are used to the efficient electronically supported systems in all of Europe the new buses make us proud.

The system adopted and the new time-tables are nothing different from those that British, French, German, Dutch, Italian and Swiss tourists are used to in their own countries. That is why tourists do not join in the organised anti-Arriva frenzy that some people and organisations have taken on board just to say something. GRTU is not in this clique. We have no political agenda to push forward. We are not anti-Arriva or anti anything. We make our views felt and get results because our system is very clear: we hear the complaints, we negotiate and present our views to the authorities and make proposals and insist on solutions. If they do not listen to us or act funny with us we go public and have no mercy towards anyone.

On Busing we made our criticism, we made our proposals based on what our members tell us and we got results. There is more to be done. But GRTU will not act stupid and go out critisising and damning what is an excellent investment backed by a tremendous endeavoUr to get things done right. We are not part of any orchestrated campaign to keep saying things are wrong when they are not. We hold surveys and we see with our own eyes. Things have improved substantially. Public transport today is of much higher quality both in equipment and manpower and service, there is still ground for improvements and we continue to strive to help Arriva give us an even better service. We must however be honest and we will refrain from looking stupid like some others are doing by simply denying which is an obvious tactic to look pretty. What we see and practice is a public transport system that improves by the week and can only get better.

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