Recent remarks by Roads Minister Aaron Farrugia who blamed the traffic congestion being experienced in the hot sweltering summer months to disruptions caused by village feasts have gone viral on social media. Though some might ridicule this controversy as nothing more than a good source of memes, in reality it is the result of growing frustration, bad planning and ultimately a serious threat to our quality of life.

The traffic situation on the islands has reached alarming proportions and the indications are that it will only get worse. We have now reached a stage whereby even in the middle of August – when life supposedly slows down, most people are on holiday and away from work, and schools closed – we are still getting gridlocked in all parts of the island.

The reasons are various and there for everyone to see. First, this is the result of a decade of economic policy based on population growth. Since 2013, Malta’s population has soared by 100,000 thus putting the country’s entire infrastructure under strain. In turn, this resulted in more cars on the roads, the number of which are increasing by about 50 daily according to the latest figures published by the National Statistics Office.

The situation is being compounded by ill-timed road works, bad planning and too many simultaneous works. Many a time works are taking ages to be completed even when dealing with residential roads of short stretches. Moreover, even we are failing in the most basic aspects of planning. It seems to have become the rule that road signs erected to advise drivers of traffic deviations remain in place weeks after a project has been completed. This is resulting in unnecessary ordeal for motorists, who are taking detours only to discover that the affected road was open. Consequently, some are being tempted to ‘defy’ road diversion signs as they do not trust the planning behind them.

Meanwhile, traffic is also being cause by never-ending large-scale projects like the central link and the airport junction. As if this was not enough somebody came up with the brilliant idea of redesigning the Mdina Road junction leading to Siggiewi.

While one has to acknowledge that village feasts do cause disruptions, this is just during weekends and in summer. Moreover, most of the complaints are coming from parts of the arterial network on which residential traffic from village cores has minimal impact. What about the rest of the year? Who are we to blame then?

The sharp increase in traffic is also putting off any realistic chance to use alternative means like motorcycles and bicycles. The number of near misses and accidents involving two-wheeled transport has increased dramatically. We have reached a stage whereby the option is to use your own transport and risk being late or else risk your life by riding a bike, unless there is a segregated lane.

The current chaos and level of incompetence is not just the result of the present administration. It is a symptom of years of neglect, short-sighted polices and at times a populist approach to accommodate a few to the detriment of many.  Taxpayers deserve better. Our Quality of life is under serious threat.