Watch: ‘The goal is that the tunnel fare costs same as ferry’ – Chairman

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

The Chairman on the committee responsible for the Malta-Gozo tunnel project Mr Franco Mercieca said that Government is aiming that the price to use the tunnel would be identical to the tickets being bought to use the Gozo Channel ferry currently.

Mercieca told Newsbook.com.mt that the tunnel project is under way and has reached an advanced stage where a pre-quotation tender should be issued soon.

Mercieca, a well-known eye surgeon, stated that there were some delays as Government requested the aid of foreign consultants, to help in selecting the criteria for the tender. He reminded that this is a complex project, and Malta has limited expertise on the subject. A foreign consulting company COWI is aiding the Government to issue the pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ).

‘A tunnel guarantees accessibility’

When asked whether a metro system should still be considered, Mercieca responded that the committee he is leading has always been based solely on a tunnel between Malta and Gozo.

Read: Gozo to Airport metro journey could take 32 minutes – architect

Gozo Channel is currently making use of a fourth ferry in its fleet, Nikolaus, in order to ease the burden caused during Malta’s high season. This change is believed to have reduced queues and increased the number of trips. Newsbook.com.mt asked Mercieca whether four permanent ferries are an alternate solution rather than constructing a tunnel between the islands. The Chairman replied that although the fourth ferry did in fact better the solution, a tunnel guarantees accessibility throughout the year.

Read: Nikolaos set to stay until replacement tender is awarded – Caruana

What happens in the case of an incident?

Mercieca added that his team have met with the Civil Protection Department (CPD) in order to evaluate the risks of an incident occurring in the tunnel. He stated that every procedure will be met with high standards, and that several safety measures similar to those in tunnels in other European countries will be installed.

‘Studies about its environmental impact take about a year’

Last March, Government had stated that results from its preliminary studies about the project’s environmental impact (EIA) will be published in a few months’ time. However, after five months of waiting, Mercieca explained that the EIA is still ongoing and that usually it takes at least a year to be completed as one needs to consider all four seasons.

‘The London School of Economics is analysing the tunnel’s expenses’

Currently, updates on the project’s Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) are being studied by the London School of Economics, said Mercieca.

Mercieca announced that all the project’s studies and findings will be published.

Read: The tunnel: Economic benefits or rising prices?