Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Malta Changeover - Latest

Fifty five “experienced” bus drivers have been urgently deployed by Arriva from the UK to Malta following reports of local bus drivers not turning up for duties. The Maltese drivers who failed to turn up for work on the first day of the Arriva operated services say that the roster they were given on Saturday, which includes split shifts and longer working hours, is unfair and not in accordance with what was stipulated in their contracts.
We unreservedly apologise for all the delays” said Piers Marlow, an Arriva director, at an impromptu conference at the company’s main office in Qormi. Six buses, two of which were travelling with commuters on board, also broke down, apparently with radiator trouble and Chinese technicians were seen on site carrying out repairs to the King Long vehicles.Commenting on these problems, Mr Marlow said: “From a fleet of 260 buses, most of which are new, only six broke down. It is not something you would hope for, but it is by no means a big issue. Technology is like that. We’ve done a lot of preparation work to ensure that breakdowns are kept to a minimum. Arriva still holds firm hopes that the change in Malta’s public transport system will bear fruit in the coming weeks. “We always believed this is an achievable project. We’re simply calling for people to be a bit patient for the coming few days”.
Mr Marlow concluded yesterday’s media conference by pointing out that “from the understanding we have, the bus system in Gozo over the past two days has worked pretty well”.
According to Malta Independent On Line "Difficulties seemed to increase as the first day progressed and the demand for public transport increased. Commuters were pleased with the air-conditioning system in the buses, but some drivers were seen accepting many standing passengers, and this created a stifling effect. This situation was experienced on the more popular routes, including those of St Julian’s and Sliema.

Among other mishaps, a bendy bus, which needs specific training to be driven, got stuck on one of the central strips on the Mater Dei Hospital Road" 
Another problem seems to be that the infrastructure isn't ready yet.  Although Valletta is almost finished, for the buses, at least, there is no shelter or lighting for the waiting passengers - indeed, a 60 year old woman is said have been hospitalized after collapsing while waiting for a bus.
One of the other complaints is that the routes simply don't go where people want to go.  A journey to Valletta, once less than 30 minutes, is now taking over an hour.
The former operators of the Valletta Park & Ride (Cooperative Services) have launched a new, competing service today.  The "Home to Work" service, direct service to Valletta, picking up en-route (possibily a pre-booked service) for €1 each way, is doing very well - in fact, they have taken to stopping at the bus stops and picking up!

According to Malta Independent Online "This state of affairs is having a very serious effect on the hospitals’ service, old people’s homes, the airport, the Law Courts and other strategic places of work.
Hundreds of people, mostly pensioners missed medical appointments at Mater Dei Hospital where a number of employees reported late for work. Commuters are frustrated to have to face this trauma everyday as the situation is still chaotic.
People are becoming frustrated and the workers are the ones to carry the brunt. Some employers in the private sector are losing a lot of money because workers are arriving late and the workers themselves risk having part of their pay deducted." 

     David Gambles