Many of the air and sea transport services have stopped or have cut down on their frequency. The same cannot be said for public transport which as an essential service and which has continued regularly during the whole period of the pandemic.
Interviewed by Television Malta, the General Manager of Malta Public Transport, Konrad Pule, said that the effects were obvious: last month the number of passengers went down by around 80% and on average every trip was taking 20 minutes less because of less traffic.
Mr Pulè said that a balance was found between maintaining this essential service in a scenario where the number of passengers was drastically reduced.
“It is obvious that without tourism, passengers will decrease, and you also have locals who were not going out as much, so basically there was a decrease of 70% – 80% of passengers in April. May appears to be a bit better but the numbers are still small,” he said.
Mr Pule said that the company has adapted to the decrease in passengers by suspending the night service and reducing the frequency of certain routes. “We reduced the frequency of routes which were not needed, but if someone is travelling on that route, you need to provide the service. For example we used to operate every 15 minutes and now we are operating every half hour in certain places.”
Mr Pule said that three bus drivers had tested positive for Covid-19. One has now gone back to work and the other two are recovering and did not need to be admitted to hospital.
He explained that the company had immediately worked on a plan with a number of measures to protect the health of its staff and passengers, including having less people on board, the installation of a perspex to separate the driver from the passengers, urging passengers to make more use of the Tallinja card, and where payment is in cash no change is given, as well as the mandatory wearing of masks on buses.
Bus Station Supervisor, Joe Xuereb said that at first not everyone was wearing a mask but gradually everyone started wearing one. After each trip, the bus drivers clean every part of the bus.
The General Manager said that Malta Public Transport employs around 1,200 people, 900 of whom are bus drivers, none of whom lost their jobs. He said that the company is preparing for the transition and is looking forward with confidence for more passengers to start using its services again in the weeks to come.
At the bus terminus in Valletta, passengers said that they feel safe in using public transport. Here are their comments: