Shoddy works, lack of planning, mismanagement, missed deadlines and over budget are some of the things which come to mind whenever there is a debate on the state of Maltese roads. These issues seem to have become endemic and have not been eradicated despite the numerous reforms and political pledges across the years by various administrations. The most recent attempt to get things right was made in 2018 with the setting up of state agency Infrastructure Malta. Five years down the line, however, there is ample evidence that there is still a very long way to go.

In recent weeks commuters going through Ghadira Bay experienced an ordeal in the wake of trenching works which had been going on since the turn of this year. Though in such circumstances, delays are to be expected, it is unacceptable that safety is at times being compromised. In this case, it is unconceivable how a single carriageway was converted to two-way traffic with no safety bollards or jersey blocks to separate vehicles heading in opposite directions. It was only after fierce criticism and various near misses that action was taken and some temporary bollards installed. The situation was made worse during weekends when there was little or no presence at all of police officers or Transport Malta officials to manage traffic.  The result was complete gridlock.

Things are not also looking great from a technical perspective either. Four years ago, Infrastructure Malta had announced that part of the Mellieha Bypass which had just been resurfaced would have to be done from scratch as it transpired that works were not up to standard. Though back then, this had been treated as a sign that the agency would not accept bad workmanship, this major arterial thoroughfare is still in its ‘wavy’ state. Despite several reminders, stories in the newspapers and parliamentary questions, the repairs which were supposed to be paid by the contractor have not been carried out yet. Such incident fuels even more the suspicions# that despite the reforms enacted, old habits are very hard to die. Four years have elapsed, and taxpayers are still waiting to get value for money.

More recently, road works were once again in the news for the bad reasons. This time around residents in Balzan had to withstand the disruptions caused by incessant works which dragged on until 4am. To add insult to injury, the police told residents they could do nothing about it as the contractor had been given the green light to work at such unearthly hour by Transport Malta and Infrastructure Malta. Consequently, the project forged ahead with complete disregard to residents as if this was an island where impunity and chaos is the order of the day.

From a financial perspective, it also seems we are still struggling. Just take a look at the project to rehabilitate various tunnels, whose cost was initially €10 million but ended up almost double.

The list of shortcomings seems to be endless amid countless examples of bad planning or major projects which take months if not years to be completed, as if there is no sense of urgency whatsoever. One such example was Triq Dun Nerik Cordina Perez in Hamrun – which stretches just 100 metres. It is hard to believe how it  four months to reconstruct!

Newly-appointed Infrastructure Malta CEO Trustin Farrugia Cann has quite a task to meet the expectations and lofty targets which had been set when this agency was set up. While Rome was not built in a day, the least we should expect is that certain commitments are kept in the interest of taxpayers, accountability, higher standards and the overall safety of motorists and pedestrians.