Following the approval of the Parliamentary motion which gave political backing to the Malta-Gozo tunnel last Wednesday, 13 organisations state that supporting an underwater tunnel before independent, serious and holistic studies are carried out and published is not only counterproductive but also irresponsible, since the benefits and impacts of the tunnel are not yet known.
The organisations note that, since this motion does not have legally binding implications, it simply represents an affirmation of the political commitment to building a tunnel. However, this is a blind commitment since, at this stage, crucial data and studies have not been presented, including the most basic fact of whether the tunnel will indeed reduce journey time between the two islands. It is questionable whether a relatively narrow tunnel with one lane in each direction, through which up to 9,000 cars will pass daily, will reduce the average journey time, when taking into consideration the capacity of the tunnel itself as well as higher congestion along the routes leading to and from it.
While the approved motion does refer to the undertaking and publication of studies, common sense dictates that a commitment to the tunnel option should only come after such studies are carried out and published, not before. Moreover, these studies should not have the tunnel option as their point of departure, but should objectively compare different options in terms of costs, impacts and efficacy, including for example, a fast-ferry service. Earlier this month, several organisations filed a judicial protest against the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects to publish all studies pertaining to the proposed tunnel between Malta and Gozo. They also asked for a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) to be carried out as required by national and EU laws.
Whilst fully acknowledging the need to address mobility challenges experienced by Gozitan workers and students, an informed discussion about the best possible option to address such challenges can only start after studies comparing different options are carried out and published.
The 13 organisations endorsing this Press Statement are:
Din l-Art Ħelwa, Ramblers’ Association of Malta, Nature Trust (Malta), BirdLife Malta, Friends of the Earth Malta, Moviment Graffitti, The Archaeological Society Malta, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, Kamra tal-Periti, Futur Ambjent Wieħed, Isles of the Left, Bicycle Advocacy Group and Żminijietna – Voice of the Left