The government is to take over the running of the bus services system from Arriva early next year and keep administering it until a new operator is found, The Malta Independent has learnt.
Effectively, this would mean that the system would go back to what it was before the so-called public transport reform in 2011 when Arriva had started its operations in Malta.
Arriva is now expected to pull out early next year once its negotiations with the government and Transport Malta are concluded.
The government would then temporarily take over the running the public transport until a fresh call for expressions of interest is concluded and the new operators are chose.
Sources told The Malta Independent that the government’s intentions are not to prolong the “temporary take-over of the bus system for more than a few months”, which means that if Arriva leave by the end of the first quarter, the new operator would be in place by the end of 2014.
Arriva’s departure has been widely expected given the problems that the company faced since day one of its services. That day, bus drivers who had been recruited by the company did not turn up for work with the result that the system got off on the wrong foot, and never really recovered.
The latest setback came in summer when fires on three bendy-buses led to their being suspended from Maltese roads indefinitely, and the government later indicated that there would be no turning back on that decision.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat took to Twitter to weigh in on the news once it was confirmed.
“With a new service, we will work hard on difficult but necessary task to raise standards and give Malta the public transport it deserves,” he said in a post signed JM to confirm that it was personally written by him.
Another tweet, apparently written by his team, states that “the public transport disaster, from bad route planning to EU ticket pricing probe, is a clear example of legacy this government inherited.”
The General Workers Union, which represents bus drivers, announced that it will be meeting Transport Minister Joe Mizzi tomorrow to insist that Arriva’s present employees are retained by whoever takes over the public transport system.
The secretary of the union’s maritime and aviation section, Jeremy Camilleri insisted that workers had to be united more than ever given the circumstances, to enable the union to secure the best possible results.
AND FROM THE TIMES OF MALTA
Transport operator Arriva will be leaving Malta by the first quarter of next year under a transition agreement being finalised between the company and transport authorities, The Sunday Times of Malta has learnt.
Transport Malta and Arriva management are currently negotiating the terms of the deal through which the Transport Authority would take over the company and a portion of its substantial debts in a nominal sale.
The authority is then expected to issue a call for expression of interest to re-award the licence. The details of the deal are still being ironed out but there is agreement on the broad terms.
It averts the option of the company filing for liquidation – a messy prospect for both Arriva and the government.
PRIME MINISTER: DIFFICULT BUT NECESSARY TASK TO
In comments this morning, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said:
"The public transport disaster, from bad route planning to the EU ticket pricing probe, is a clear example of the legacy this government inherited. With a new service we will work hard on the difficult but necessary task to raise standards and give Malta the public transport it deserves."
The General Workers' Union saluted the Arriva workers who were continuing to do their best in the circumstances and said it would work to give them peace of mind about their jobs.
Transport section secretary Jeremy J Camilleri called for unity among the workers so that the union could achieve the best result for them.
SEE ALSO THE LATEST ON THE FOCUS FLICKR SITE
There were two railway specials through Chesterfield on Saturday 21st December. Only problem was unlike other parts of the country, the town was bathed in low winter sunshine, and as both specials were northbound, this posed a bit of difficulty, the results are still worth posting.
First up was a double-headed 37-class diesel haul to East Yorkshire with 37604 and 37423 on the front with 37612 at the back. An hour later and bang on time was the "York Yule Tide Express" hauled by A-4 class 60009 Union of South Africa, diesel 57313 bringing up the rear. Note how the train has run 'wrong line' through the station and platform 2, in order to pass by a northbound goods on platform 3, and keeping the special on time. Images captured by the Focus Transport team can be viewed here