Robert Abela and Ian Borg unveil Central Link project in official inauguration

The once-controversial Central Link project formally inaugurated by government as neighbouring project in Mrieħel is still underway

The €55 million Central Link project was officially inaugurated on Sunday after two years of works and controversy.

A government delegation comprised of the Prime Minister and Infrastructure Minister, among others, unveiled an inaugural plaque along the stretch of road, formalising the project’s completion after two years.

When first announced, the project was met with heavy criticism from environmentalists and concerned residents over the project’s environmental impact.

But in an opening speech, Infrastructure Minister Ian Borg admitted that he didn’t expect any controversy around the project when it was first announced.

“We genuinely thought that everyone would be in favour of the project, that there wouldn’t be any controversy and that everyone would be happy,” he said. “But I made a small mistake - a few people were angry about the project. But now, some people admit they were wrong. Even some residents here thanked us for making the project happen.”

In an zoologic analogy, Borg said that one must act “like a turtle” to carry out such projects. “You need to stick your neck out, grow a thick skin, carry responsibility, look forward and move slowly with perseverance to succeed.”

“I always tried to show a brave face that can handle criticism. I stuck my neck out and developed a thick skin - like a turtle,” he continued. “But the truth is that when my daughter grows up and someone tells her that her father wanted to cut the trees along this road, she would be able to take an aerial shot on Google Earth and show that we actually increased the trees here.”

Prime Minister Robert Abela said that this project was one of seven other infrastructural projects that would benefit commuters.

“We invested €140 million across seven projects, including the Marsa project and Santa Luċija project,” he said. “In total, people will be saving €1.2 billion due to spending less time in traffic, and for businesses, less costs.”

He said such road-widening projects will help lower emissions, so much so that emissions saved would be equivalent to what is saved through solar panels across the country.

“We were creative and ambitious. We have been offering free public transport for many segments of the population, and from October it will be free for everyone. This project has Malta’s longest continuous cycling route,” he pointed out.

“For those who want to use their private vehicle, we brought in incentives for people to switch their cars to electric vehicles, whereby government will in effect pay half the price. We are a government that incentivises, not penalises.”

Both Frederick Azzopardi and Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi - Infrastructure Malta chief and EU funds parliamentary secretary respectively - praised Infrastructure Malta in their opening speeches for its collaborative work with the workers and contractors involved.

As parliamentary secretary for EU funds, Zrinzo Azzopardi noted that the project was co-financed through the European cohesion found and regional development fund.

In total, €55 million from European and national coffers were spent on the project.

While the Central Link project has been completed, works are still in progress on the Mrieħel underpass, which is set to be completed by June this year.

The underpass is a different project that would ensure unobstructed passage of southbound traffic towards the Mrieħel bypass.