The last few visits to Malta have included the use of the extremely convenient Sliema-Valletta ferry service. Even in the dastardly heat of August, the short trip across the harbour and (admittedly) arduous uphill walk to the Republic street is an overall pleasant affair.
When Transport Malta calls for tenders for harbour ferry services though it is not holidaymakers like myself and tourists that are the primary concern but rather the creation of a viable and practical alternative to the heavily congested road traffic. Even if we were to have had a near perfect transition to all that was promised by Emanuel Delia’s Arriva the use of water transport as an alternative was always going to be a useful complementary solution.
It’s good to see some forward thinking being applied – such as the free Valletta Lift use for all ferry ticket holders (always an added incentive). The condition of a maximum of 30 mins between each ferry trip is also important to ensure a constant flow – ferries with skeleton provision tend to be impractical for the consumer.
I’m not too sure about the “toilet facilities” requirement for what is after all less than a 15 minutes trip. Recently the Gozo Channel company that operates a 25 minute trip was quoted in the Times as saying that it did not feel the need to provide such Emergency services as defibrillators on short trips and that anyway there was no obligation. Surely available public toilets at each end of the Ferry service should suffice.
On the whole I would use the Venice Vaporettos (see picture) as a good standard reference point and would add a few suggestions of my own:
- Sliema, Marsamxett and Inner Dockyard are a good start. A (maybe summer) route linking Portomaso – Exiles – The Tower – Tigne – Sliema Ferry might be an option.
- Venice has many floating “ferry stops”. The Inner Harbour stops could be served by these – it might be a bit harder in the exposed areas for the summer route (see what happened to Sliema Pitch addition this year).
- Ticketing system. Just in case the idea even floated in your mind: forget discriminating between residents and non-residents. Just use season tickets the 10€ weekly pass is a good start.
- I am sure you thought of it but just in case, ferry users need to get to the ferry point. Is there going to be a similar deal with Arriva for a combo bus/ferry ticket? It’s evident there will be no car park + ferry ticket because Sliema parking is what it is.
What about you? Do you have any other suggestions for the new system? Do you care?