An integrated and sustainable approach to mass transportation | Angelo Xuereb

Angelo Xuereb on the need for a mass transportation system in Malta


I am pleased that the Government has come to the realization that we need a mass transportation system to reduce traffic congestion and emissions in Malta.   

I have been proposing the concept of a Monorail / Metro System for the past 31 years and in the interim I have proactively shared in-depth insight and expert-led knowledge in several public articles and interviews. My proposals, dating back to 1990, include an initial phase to address the most congested zones in the outer Harbour areas, together with a fully-fledged system proposal, recently raised this February 2021.  Throughout this time, I reiterated that the acute traffic problem in Malta would worsen over time and that a practical and sustainable solution should be sought out without any further delays.

Angelo Xuereb
Angelo Xuereb

Location of stations

Let us not forget the main objective of having a mass transportation system; that of enticing as many users as possible to choose public transportation over their personal vehicles. The government’s proposal of integrating stations at the very core of our towns and villages defeats this original scope.

Considering the wealth of heritage, space, and incompatible structures, the stations should not be located in the urban core, but rather in the periphery of our towns and villages. It is clear that 90% of the Government’s proposed metro system is dependent on the usage of Feeder Buses (smaller buses that pick up commuters from various bus stops that are scattered around the villages and towns).  And although the feeders are important for the success of this project, they can also cause traffic congestion and noise pollution if added with others hailing from nearby villages.   

A successful Monorail / Metro System for Malta needs to acknowledge the typology of the island’s urban landscape, rather than casting a system that is more suitable for large European countries.  We should aim to improve Maltese citizens’ quality of life by refining the overall flow within the central areas of our towns and villages, without adversely affecting the commercial potential within each area.

The mentioned stations are appropriate when located in the outskirts of our towns, where the population in that area is not so dense and when they are complemented with parking facilities. Positioning the stations outside the core village and town areas is the most logical and effective solution for all involved.  The advantages of having these stations in the periphery of Malta’s towns or villages are many.  Some are the following:

  • More parking space for Feeder Buses, together with safe embarkation and disembarkation of passengers.
  • Carpark facilities at a higher hourly rate would be necessary since there would still be clusters of people preferring the use of personal vehicles to get to the fast metro / monorail.
  • It would be far more practical and time efficient for Feeder Buses to use stations that are located on the periphery of the town or village rather than having to manoeuvre through winding narrow streets during peak hours, to reach the city centre stations!

In practical terms, one just has to imagine Feeders from Siġġiewi, Żebbuġ and Qormi driving to Marsa, Mrieħel or Ħamrun during peak hours to foresee a disaster in the making, right in the centre of our towns and villages!

Feeder buses
Feeder buses

Proposed Master Plan

My proposed Master Plan costs less than the Government’s estimated expense of €6 billion; has a wider catchment area of the population; and covers the entire stretch of the island, right to Ċirkewwa.

The Master Plan is based on a network of three main routes, spanning 52 km, with a total of 17 stations (3 of which will serve as interchange stations) having adequate parking for the Feeder Buses, coaches, taxis or cabs. This will surely encourage more people to make use of ‘call-in’ cabins or taxis.

As outlined in my Master Plan, it is highly advisable to construct elevated railways.  Besides being considerably cheaper to construct than underground tunnels, they also offer a pleasant route to view our rural areas when passing over on elevated routes.   Another consideration is that the construction of tunnels and stations at 10 to 15 meters below sea level is much costlier than a typical tunnel.

In order to make the system more efficient, we can introduce people movers, (electric driver-less cabins which are similar to what we see between air terminals) from Floriana to Valletta, and from Marsa Park & Ride to Marsa Station. At Mater Dei Hospital, similar cabins can be installed on an elevated circuit to facilitate visitors’ commuting time to see patients.

With time, the system can incorporate these ‘people movers’ from congested areas, like Buġibba, Qawra, St. Paul’s Bay, Paceville, Sliema, Ħamrun, Birkirkara and Cottonera, to the nearest station.

People movers
People movers


  • It is to be noted that the excavation of the actual tunnels would cost considerably less than the construction of the stations, trains, equipment, and rails. Therefore, I propose that all tunnels are excavated in Phase 1, as this will save on logistics costs and on the unnecessary transportation costs of the heavy boring machine.
  • I simply cannot understand why ARUP are proposing a dated twin steel rails system instead of a single rail system! The latter uses rubber wheels by the side and on top of the single rail (one beam) which we refer to as a monorail. It is completely silent and more efficient with less maintenance work required to operate. It can also travel at a 12-degree gradient, while with their proposed solution, the metro can travel at only 8 degrees. These monorails (single rail) are being used in modern systems within large European Countries such as Paris and Barcelona.
  • I am pleased to note that land reclamation is being advocated by consultants to create a well-designed Sliema Waterfront, a concept I have been proposing since 2007. However, I disagree with the idea of an underground tunnel and station situated 15 meters below sea level for many reasons, amongst which the substantial construction costs.
  • The Marsa Interchange station and Park & Ride should be elevated so as to avoid further costs of construction below sea level and therefore reduce the total investment substantially.
  • Floriana Park & Ride can have a direct and more efficient link by using people movers that take commuters directly to the Valletta Station, through the existing old Railway Tunnel.
  • The entire project should be split in 3 phases; Phase 1 to include a section of each route in most congested areas.  Phases 2 and 3 are to include the remaining routes up to Ċirkewwa.
  • Once the system is connected to Valletta through an underground tunnel, other vehicles will also be able to pass through other tunnels to reach Valletta underground car parks. Hence, St Anne Street in Floriana can be transformed into a nicely landscaped pedestrian priority area.
  • The size of the Stations would need to be designed according to the total population catchment of the villages or towns, as well as factoring in the estimated number of people who would use the system. Based on this information, the number of required Feeder Buses would be determined with more accuracy, resulting in an effective and functional station design.
  • Although I am a developer, I disagree with the enormous development being proposed next to the stations at Pembroke and Kennedy Grove in Salina.  At most, one can consider an elevated car park next to the Buġibba station since Buġibba, Qawra and St Paul’s Bay lack adequate parking facilities.  It is crucial that we are forward looking and aim to create more green areas that serve as the ‘Lung’ of the dense development zones.
  • For the Government to reduce its investment, it can consider offering the construction and operation of the car parks next to all the stations for private investment via the Build & Operate Scheme.
  • Consultants also need to advise the Government on the maintenance and operational costs of the entire project.
  • To conclude, this is a huge national investment, one that is much needed for a healthier and cleaner environment. Reduction of private vehicles coupled with more efficient integrated public transport will result in a better quality of life for all citizens.

This is a highly sensitive and long-term project and therefore should be meticulously reviewed, studied, and discussed before any final decisions are taken by the government.  Political parties, engineers, architects, financial consultants and the general public will need to collaborate and engage in mature discussions and debates; this is not a matter of Red, Blue and Green, this is a matter of a sustainable development that will improve our standard of living.

My recommendation is to engage the best local architects and engineers, who together with Government consultants, study all the pros and cons and subsequently present their findings and proposals for public consultation.  Since this is a long-term project, it would be best to have this approved by at least 75% of Parliament members, in the interest of the present and future generations.