The Interdiocesian Environment Commission says that the government should take into account all the options rather than proceed squarely with an underground road tunnel between Malta and Gozo.
In their report entitled, ‘Towards sustainable connectivity across the Channel’, KA states that it is looking forward to the government carrying out and publishing a comprehensive Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) of all the alternatives that will increase connectivity between the Maltese islands.
The body outlines that this would include a fast ferry service, a fourth ferry for Gozo Channel line, a whole new ferry service and a tunnel for rail use which connects with a wider mass transit system across Malta. KA believes that this would also need to be part of a public consultation process which ‘thoroughly explored’ the alternatives.
Although such a process is ‘mandatory’ if the government applied for EU funds, KA is encouraging the government to do this, ‘irrespective of whether EU funds are applied for or not, so that the final decision would really have taken into consideration all options and their impact on the sustainable future of Gozo.’
This, they say, will ensure that the final decision will have taken into account all alternatives and their social, economic and environmental impacts, compared then with a car tunnel.
KA adds that this is crucial when both the PL and PN could find the tunnel concept agreeable despite their being no information in the public domain explaining the options. ‘Agreement on such an issue between the political parties can never substitute truly credible studies.’ KA states.
While the concept of a tunnel between the two islands is attractive, KA also points out existing methods must remain.
The commission outlines that tourism, tunnel maintenance and the possible spiralling costs of the tunnel project mean that the ferry service has to remain operational.
Gozo won’t be built?
KA also takes issue with the statements by Government and the Malta Developer’s Association, that Gozo will not suffer a ‘building sprawl’. They argue that if this is true, the government should take steps to publish the existing Gozo Local Plan and the freezing of development boundaries, updating the Rural Policy and Design Guidance to prevent abuses of the Outside Development Zones (ODZ) and to review the fuel stations policy.
The Commission adds that so-called freezes on the development zones run contrary to the number of approved plans within the ODZ. At the same time, this has the effect of increasing property prices thus pricing out local Gozitans. This could have a negative impact of improved accessibility.
Everything in the public domain
Ultimately, the Interdiocesian Environment Commission states that all studies and research which has examined the feasibility of the tunnel project and alternatives for connectivity, ‘will be truly credible and would provide a valid contribution to the current public discussion in the interest of the common good and the future of our country.’