by Petra Caruana Dingli

The idea of building a tunnel to Gozo is still doing the rounds. My personal view is that a road tunnel, enabling cars to drive directly to the supposed ‘eco-island’ of Gozo, is not a good idea. A professional study carried out last year calculated an increase of 1,500 cars per day in Gozo if a permanent road link is constructed, and that may well be a conservative estimate.

Traffic congestion in Malta is becoming disastrous. Our public transport system is wholly inadequate and the number of cars on the road will soon reach gridlock. Extending this chaos and pollution to Gozo is a bad move.

But a tunnel as part of a wider solution for improving public transport in both Malta and Gozo, is quite different. Opposition leader Simon Busuttil recently proposed that a tunnel to Gozo should be part of a network for trains, reaching important nodes on both islands. Essentially, this envisages a metro railway system, wholly or partially underground.

A fast, metro train running from Valletta to Victoria in Gozo, with stops at the hospital and university, Sliema, Birkirkara or elsewhere, sounds good to me. Less road traffic also means less air pollution. We desperately need better and new solutions for public transport as at this rate we will soon not be able to move around at all.

The idea is ambitious and its feasibility is a moot point, but please let us take this idea seriously and find a way to make it work. Enabling a flood of cars to reach Gozo through a road tunnel is definitely not the way forward, but a public railway network, also extending underground to Gozo, is another story altogether.