Bus Regulation, Network Planning and Bus Service Procurement - the Malta Experience
R Childs, Halcrow Group Limited, UK; D Sutton, ADT Malta, MT
Faced with a loss-making network and an inflexible network planning process the paper describes how the Government of Malta proposes to revitalise both the network itself and the processes of network planning, regulation and funding.
Local bus services on the island of Malta are currently provided by some 500 buses registered to 450 operators - mainly single vehicle operations. A generally medium to high frequency network (3,750 departures per day) focuses on the capital, Valletta. Services are provided on a "day on, day off" basis with each operator presenting his bus to be allocated a day's operating duties every other day at the main bus station in Valletta by 0730 hours.
The Malta Transport Authority (ADT) is responsible for all aspects of regulation and, ultimately, enforcement. The Bus operators'Association (ATP) represents the interests of operators, manages day to day operations and shares monitoring and control duties with ADT officers.
Operators are paid a rate per seat kilometre of operation and revenue is banked with the government. At the time of the study revenue on buses fell short of the payments made to operators by some 30%.
With one of the highest rates of motorisation in Europe the island's bus services were regarded as unattractive, costly and unreliable, particularly by younger people.
The Government of Malta, through its agency ADT, wished to consider changing the basis of funding and regulation of services, requiring:
- an audit of present operations and infrastructure
- a review of options for the regulation of provision
- recommendations for a regulatory framework
In particular the study was to consider the introduction of an element of competition into the provision of bus sevices, in line with the principles set down in the EU document Comm 2000,7.
The study proposals were to have a primary aim of raising the image and perception of the island's bus services from that of a mode of "last resort" to something regarded as a genuine alternative to using private cars.
The latter would include clearly defined roles for government, the operators' association and the operators themselves. Network planning, currently somewhat ad hoc, would be a function of ADT. Any new regime was to be capable of acting as a platform for the introduction of new intermediate modes such as Bus Rapid Transit.
The study examined regualtory options against a nine stage typology of degrees of regulation ranging from a totally deregulated "system" with minimal quality or quantity controls to a fully publicly planned and operated network.
Recommendations focused on a revised bus network that:
- provided a revised network with a greater emphasis on bus to bus interchange
- introduced an integrated ticketing regime that made interchange more efficient and did not result in fare penalties for interchange
- reduced the operating costs of the network so that the costs and revenues were broadly in balance
- divided the network into nine operating route groups that could be offered as franchises or operating contracts
- identified that through local association the network could continue to be provided by individual operators albeit with fewer required in total.
Association for European Transport