Sent in by someone I know. The subject matter will suggest that from my point of view publishing this piece is self-serving. However that alone is not enough reason not to carry the piece. So please take into account the fact that I was prominent in the pre-2013 transport reform being defended by the writer of this article.

Let’s go back to 2011 / 2012. After much planning and consultation, the PN government reformed the public transport service. An operator was selected, and a new public transport service was introduced. Many of you will remember the vicious media campaign against Arriva. In hindsight it now seems obvious that this was orchestrated by someone who wanted to see public transport fail. Every minor mishap involving Arriva was made front page news by The Times of Malta and Malta Today. Every tiny molehill was made to seem like a mountain.

When the Arriva service began to operate the new ticket-machines were vandalised. The ticketing system was essential as it would have avoided having drivers selling tickets and thus journey times would have been reduced. The GWU took industrial action on Arriva’s very first day of operations.

Where did Labour stand in all this? Before the elections Labour was part of the chorus of negativity directed towards Arriva. This was to be expected because of the elections. What was not expected was the continued negative stance of the Labour Party, now in government. After 2013, the negative campaigns against Arriva continued not only in the main newspapers but also on the public broadcaster. There were no meaningful discussions between the government and Arriva to address shortcomings of the initial months of service. In hindsight, it is now clear that Labour was intent to push Arriva out and effectively undo many of the improvements that had been brought about with the 2011/12 reform. The transport minister and also PM Muscat made repeated statements criticizing Arriva, in most cases unfairly.

Then there were fires in the engines of three bendy buses. These happened in the short space of ten days – this fact alone makes one suspect that these were arson, but no meaningful investigations were carried out by the police. Again, in hindsight, this comes as no surprise given the multiple times that the police looked the other way when substantiated allegations of crimes were made in the media.

The government used these incidents to force the bendy buses off the road. This imposed significant additional expenses on the operator. Within a few months Arriva had no other choice other than to pull out of the contract. It was the Labour government that had forced it to.

When the Labour government issued the call for bidders, only Autobuses de León was genuinely interested. Many companies were appalled at the way Arriva was treated by the Labour government and they did not want to risk going through the same nightmare. For fear that Autobuses de León would pull out, the government included a clause in the contract that effectively guarantees that the new operator would make no losses. With this clause, the regulator is unable to enforce quality of service. It is useless for Transport Malta to impose fines for breaches of contract as the operator’s profits are guaranteed. The net result of all this is a significant deterioration of quality of service. Autobuses de León provides a basic transport service, but it is unreliable and long waiting times are to be expected especially on non-peak routes and at non-peak times.

Now who stood to gain from this step backwards in Malta’s transport? When in Malta tourists need to move around to go to visitor attractions, beaches, and places of entertainment. In the absence of a reliable public transport service, visitors to Malta opt for private transport services. So, operators of coaches, taxis, hop on hop off and car rentals all stood to gain from a weak public transport service.

In recent weeks, links between Robert Abela and an alleged criminal gang were exposed. These individuals started to operate a car rental company around the time when Labour was elected to government. It is alleged that this company illicitly gained 3 million euros by means of a car ticketing scam, (in which the tourists pay the fines to the rental company but then these fines were abusively waived by LESA). If the car rental company made €3 million off the scam, just think what the turnover of this car rental company was. Join the dots.

It is normal to expect the government of a country to act in the best public interest. So, the Labour government’s actions and decisions on public transport were shocking. Labour acted decisively against the public interest. It favoured the interests of private companies and individuals, including alleged criminals with links to Robert Abela.

The Labour government’s approach to public transport is consistent with its overall approach to governance. From its very first day in office back in 2013, Labour took decisions and struck deals that consistently favoured specific private companies and individuals to the detriment of the public. Café Premier, the three hospitals deal, the ITS land give-away and permit, the power station deal, the Żonqor ODZ land and the Dock 1 buildings giveaway to AUM are a few of many examples.

So, if you regularly use public transport but waste loads of time to do so – blame Labour.

If you are struggling to make ends meet but still was forced to buy a car because the public transport does not serve your travel needs – blame Labour.

If you are a car driver who loses too much time caught up in traffic congestion – blame Labour.

If you are an elderly person forced into home isolation without visiting friends and relatives because of unreliable public transport – blame Labour.

If you are forced to drive your children to school daily because public transport cannot be relied upon – blame Labour.

If you are a teenager with limited means who must spend good money for a taxi to go out in the weekends – blame Labour.

If you are concerned about pollution and the carbon footprint of excessive traffic – blame Labour.