by Petra Caruana Dingli

The kiosks at the Valletta bus terminus have been given three weeks to shut down, making way for the upgrade of the area. This project has been in the pipeline for years.

When architect Renzo Piano drew up his plans for the City Gate area, the bus terminus and ditch were an integral part of the overall design.

Keeping buses away from the city entrance was also planned in the controversial public transport reform of 2011. This move was then partly reversed and the buses drove back in.

At the time it was also proposed to shift the Triton fountain of 1959, created by sculptor Vincent Apap with Victor Anastasi, to near the Floriana car park. This move was thankfully shelved and it was decided to restore it instead.

The fountain is not just placed on the road surface but includes substantial underground spaces containing the water system. Changing its location is difficult and would destroy original features.

Almost two years ago it was finally announced that the restoration of the fountain would soon begin at a cost of €500,000, but the tender was stalled. Once the Parliament building and the city entrance were completed in 2015, further works on the ditch and terminus were put on hold.

They have now been revived, hopefully to still be in time for completion by 2018 when Valletta will be European Capital of Culture. This is very good news, although it is unclear why this two-year delay happened at all.

It would have been ideal if the revamp of the bus terminus was completed in time for the EU presidency as well. It’s certainly better late than never and it is great to see the project being continued – hopefully to also include the long-awaited garden in the Valletta ditch.

Kiosks, as permanent stalls, exist in many cities. Many of the old kiosks in Valletta were either lost through redevelopment or destroyed during the war. Some surviving ones have been scheduled, together with wooden shop fronts. These are, however, much more attractive than the shabby accretions at the bus terminus.

Some of the kiosk vendors at the terminus were operating through a legal rent agreement, while several others were squatting in one way or another, some of them already for 40 years. Others were hawkers operating from the area.

Those who held legal agreements have been given financial compensation, the others have not, but all have the right to meet the highest offer when a tender will be issued for the new kiosks.

It is good that an equitable solution seems to have finally been reached. The revamped area outside City Gate promises to be a great improvement, kiosks and all, on what we have had for the last 50 years