A fresh row has erupted over controversial plans for tunnel linking Malta and Gozo.
Business leaders said it was ‘still essential’ for Gozo’s economic growth, claiming that the new ferry ‘should not replace the need for a tunnel’.
But tourism chiefs have disagreed publicly for the first time, arguing that they ‘no longer see the necessity for the tunnel’.
The Gozo Tourism Association said that massively improved ferry service between Mgarr and Cirkewwa this summer put the entire €300 million tunnel project into question.
The association, which represents dozens of hotels and restaurants on the island, said the new fourth ferry could be even be regarded ‘a floating tunnel’.
Chief executive Joe Muscat told The Malta Independent: ‘As an island we are really connected. The fourth ferry has resulted in negligible queues now.
‘During the Santa Marija weekend, queues were almost non-existent.
He also urged the government to push ahead with plans for a new helicopter link between the two islands.
Mr Muscat added: ‘As an association that looks at the interests of the tourism sector, we believe that once Gozo is connected to Malta by sea and air we do not see the necessity for the tunnel.’
Business leaders hit back, repeating their calls for a tunnel linking Nadur to L-Imbordin.
The Gozo Business Chamber dismissed suggestions that the introduction of a fourth ferry had solved the nightmare commute from Gozo to Malta.
Chamber president Joseph Borg told Malta Today: ‘The addition of a ferry is not the ultimate solution to the problem of commuting between Malta and Gozo.
‘We feel that the fact we now have a fourth vessel is very positive but it is not the best solution.
‘The ferry should not replace the need for a tunnel.’
Malta to Gozo tunnel: what we know so far
- The proposed tunnel will be around 14 km long.
- According to a Transport Malta study, it will have two lanes in either direction, divided by a central emergency lane.
- The tunnel plan is based on an earlier one done in 2012, which concluded that a tunnel was a better option than a bridge.
- The tiny hamlet of l-Imbordin has been earmarked as the location of the tunnel entrance in Malta.
- In Gozo, the tunnel portal would be built near Kenuna Tower in Nadur.
- The tunnel project is estimated to cost roughly €300 million, with a lifetime of around 100 years.
- The Prime Minister has said he expects it to open by 2024.