Tunnelling for Gozo’s fortunes

Source: Mr George M. Mangion¸ PKF Malta

As published on The Malta Today on Wednesday 26th March 2013



A lot has been written on how to ameliorate Gozo’s double insularity and over the years¸ rivers of crocodile tears flowed and lamentations were uttered by honourable folks elected to parliament from both sides. But miracles take time and with a restricted budget not much can be done by any class of politician¸ whatever his or her good intentions in that Holy Grail to accelerate the limited access to Gozo by ferry.

This is made amply evident every time a thunderstorm and gale force winds make crossing by ferry boat dangerous. This problem is compounded by the fact that currently there is no airfield connection for emergency crossing in case of medical care needed by Gozo patients for urgent attention in Mater Dei hospital.

On the commercial perspective¸ this insularity hampers the flow of tourists who wish to land in Malta and fly direct to Gozo. The majority of hotels are living from hand to mouth and cannot flourish since tourism in Gozo consists merely of day-trippers which cannot sustain the critical mass necessary to sustain a thriving hospitality industry.

This means that unless commuting is guaranteed on a 24/7 basis¸ its inhabitants will remain cocooned during storms and inclement weather and as a consequence will never attain the levels of economic development achieved in Malta. In the past a lot has been written in the media on the best possible solution to link islands¸ but the closest the government ever came to seriously considering a permanent link was in 1972. Then the government commissioned Japanese engineers to carry out a preliminary survey to build a causeway. Alas¸ this causeway did not materialise as technology was not so developed as now.

“Excavation costs can reach a princely sum of €160 million (or more if a dual tunnel is built) counting on a 7km tunnel”

Here I recall taking a taxi drive on the excellent connection from mainland China on a causeway leading to Macao where millions of gamblers flow to the Las Vegas of the Asia. A cool system of mass transit was set up in Singapore with efficient cable car connections to the island of Sentosa. Another example in Europe is the superior travel connections to Gibraltar.

It may appear invidious if one starts to compare the high standard of living enjoyed by residents of Gibraltar¸ which is a rock far smaller in size than Gozo but similar in number of inhabitants at just 6.8 square kilometres (2.6 square miles) and home to about 30¸000 people. Due to the acumen and brinkmanship of its political leaders¸ citizens enjoy a high GDP with an attractive business environment leading to better paid jobs (and almost a full employment rating).

In Gibraltar one finds a fully-fledged airport with a runway jutting on a reclaimed land out to the sea. The tourist industry is galloping at full speed¸ travellers visiting by cruise liners¸ and by air from Europe. Perhaps comparisons with Gozo are superfluous as the circumstances and locati