Home Living Abroad Public Transport in Malta: Arriva Begins 2011

Public Transport in Malta: Arriva Begins 2011

4 July, 2011 9 comments

I’ve been a bit AWOL from the blog recently. Just had a week off work with family visiting and have been so busy that I’ve just not had time. I’ve been having a fantastic week though so I am sure you can forgive me ;) I have some great posts lined up about Summer so far and Gozo but for now I wanted to quickly talk about the new bus service.

Malta is famous the world over for the old yellow buses.

Image found via FlickRiver (http://www.flickriver.com/groups/buscoachmalta/pool/interesting/)

And it’s true, they are quaint and cute and add a lot of character to the island. But they are also a total nightmare. The buses themselves are at least twice my age and it shows. Most of them are in terrible disrepair. The insides are filthy, falling apart, loud and smelly. They create so much pollution, when one passes you, you are engulfed in a thick plume of black smoke. They are uncomfortable, packed too tightly and so hot, sticky and unbearable in high summer. They may be fun for the tourists to look at and they might even think its a funny adventure going on one but for those of us who live here, they are totally horrific!

And then there are the drivers- do not get me started! They are mostly rude, lazy and downright disgusting. This doesn’t apply to all of them of course, but enough of them to have gained them a very bad rep. They rarely speak except to shout ‘MOVE BACK PLEASE’ when they’ve let double the bus capacity on and there is nowhere to stand, or to shout expletives at anyone who dares try and pay with anything larger than a euro coin. The fare for a local stop is 47c. I once tried to pay with a 2 euro coin and all hell broke loose!

So I personally was quite glad when I heard that Arriva were taking over the service. Brand new buses, clean, bigger and with aircon, drivers would have to reapply and the ones who were accepted would have to be retrained, better routes and discounts for residents.

There has been so much talk about this takeover, people are upset that it’s taking away part of the islands culture and charm. I’ve kept quiet about it really as I liked the old ones but am happy about the change. Luckily for me I can walk to work so only get a bus for a journey to the beach and for all I disliked the yellow bus journeys, I’d still have used them.

Yesterday the new buses, routes and drivers came into effect. And what a massive cock up.

Instead of filtering the new service in slowly they just came in, BAM, in peak tourist season on a Sunday- huge busy day for buses! The majority of drivers didn’t even turn up for work due to a dispute over working hours, of the ones who did turn up a lot weren’t even fully trained yet. The bus stops were even busier than normal with people keen to try out the new buses on the first day and almost everyone was disappointed, some people even stranded. They were all running terribly, some people waited over 3 hours before giving up. These buses are supposed to run every 7 minutes or less!

One of the longer buses even got stuck on its first route. Something that was meant to be tested 100s of times before the routes came into effect.


Joe and I plus our friend Chris went to wait in Sliema for a bus to Cirkewwa and gave up after 30 minutes. Later on, around 5.30PM we needed to get to Msida from Sliema and waited for over an hour before giving up. Eventually, around 7/8PM we were able to get a bus but had to wait over 20 minutes. We didn’t have to pay though and the bus was lovely to ride on! However the information signs at all the stops are very confusing and don’t list half the stops and some even contradict the website (which wasn’t working all day yesterday!). There were never helpful signs on the stops before, you had to look at the ATP website and just know, however I think incorrect/confusing signs are just as bad as no signs at all!

So all in all, I am really disappointed with the first day. Arriva handled it all terribly, didn’t do enough ground work, aren’t even capable of communicating well with their staff over important things such as shifts and have really let the island down. The buses may be lovely to ride in, but the prices have more than tripled for a normal day pass (although it was only 47 cents before and residents can get saver cards which winds up SUPER cheap!) and with such a bad service, it’s really not worth the extra. Let’s hope they get their act together, FAST!


Angela 4 July, 2011 - 1:28 pm

I’m with you on your view of all this- Malta NEEDED these new buses. It not only will improve Malta’s image but it will also in the long run be a much better service. The old buses were horrible, and I do admit it is a little sad to see some of them go because Malta is known for their unique buses. But I will NOT miss the horrible drivers, the over crowded buses, the hot swealtering heat in the summer. I don’t think that they really thought everything through when it came to unveiling the new buses though either- like you said, its tourist season now, kids are out of school- bus season is at a high point and they choose to do this now??! Not very smart in my opinion. I knew they’d have all sorts of trouble from the beginning, but like everything here- its takes time to get used to it, to get it right. I for see a lot of problems over the next month or so. I, like you, rarely take the bus since I also walk to work- but going to the beach and stuff- i’ll die from heat exhaustion before I even get to the beach if I’m waiting forever!

gringation 4 July, 2011 - 6:07 pm

Hopefully they’ll get their act together soon! If they do, it could be pretty awesome. We just got new buses in cancun, too… air conditioning, handicap accessible, a few other features, but with the same surly bus drivers like you have haha

Rob 4 July, 2011 - 6:59 pm

I went on three of the yellow busses while in Malta for a holiday, it’s not something one forgets in a hurry. I guess it would be a shame if all the yellow busses went but for mainstream transport it does need somethinig a bit more modern. Maybe if you have to many complaints from tourists about their demise they should keep a few on just for running tourists around so saving the nice new buses for local people.

Anonymous 11 July, 2011 - 9:11 pm

Arriva sucks, been left in the sun for hours. They have technical problems as well. Prices went up. Several old buses should have been removed and some drivers should have been fired but i think if they had cleaned up their act we would have been better with the old system. Well as usual the country invests a great deal of money and we get the shity service. I can’t believe Arriva works in other countries.

Harri 12 July, 2011 - 10:23 am

They work quite well in other countries. The more I read up on it, the more I realise it’s not really their fault. They picked a bad time of year and a bad day to take over and that should have been planned better. But their biggest issue is the drivers. Deciding the day before they start that they don’t like the hours or the wage or the work. Over half of them not even turning up for work. I think it’s shocking. There are mature ways to go about things, and throwing a tantrum, like most of the drivers, is not the best way. Good for them if they can afford to be out of work, I just hope that Arriva learn from this and communicate better with the drivers they go on to employ! x

Anonymous 14 July, 2011 - 2:28 pm

We had a week to experience the old buses. It was fine but quite bumpy. The Sunday when Arriva started to run, it took us three hours to get to Marsaxiokk from Bugibba. It was worse on Monday. We experienced two hours of waiting time. They should have let the old buses still run while testing the new buses. It’s not fair for us tourists who only have a short time in Malta. I do hope Arriva will get better.

Harri 14 July, 2011 - 4:38 pm

I know what you mean, some days I have waited over an hour and no bus, or had 3 go past without letting any passengers on! But it was no different before to be honest. They should definitely have fed the new system in slowly but as the two systems were entirely independent I guess it wasn’t really possible. They’ve also changed a lot of routes and just stopped using certain bus stops which is frustrating. Arriva can’t be blamed entirely for the delays though, a huge number of drivers just never showed up for work which is something you never expect to happen!

If you’re still in Malta I hope they get better soon and you enjoy the rest of your stay!

a second class foreigner in Malta 22 August, 2011 - 7:51 pm

When bus drivers ask ID cards to people who have a foreign accent or look like tourists, they should ask Maltese IDs to all people in this country. A Maltese who lives outside Malta has to be treated like a foreigner, that’s all. It’s not complicated. Or else to the people who say to me, go back home, I reply, give me back my money that my home country gives to you in your corruption and get away from EU. For those who prey Jesus Christ, he has never said that people can be racist. Ask all people a Maltese ID, that’s all. In my opinion, it was the biggest stupidity to create two bus fares for one day ticket and force some people to show an ID. Welcome in Malta who didn’t understand what is human rights and to be part of EUROPE. Do you remember when some people had to show yellow badge, Do YOU remember?if not, open History books.

cypruslifeinpictures 10 March, 2012 - 8:01 am

Ah, we’ve been travelling to Malta every February for the last 6 years or so from our home in Cyprus. We came to live here (originally from UK) in March 2004 but my parents have been holidaying in Malta for the last 12 years so we fly out on the Emirates flight from Larnaca to meet up with them for a few days each year.

This year we had our first experience of the new Arriva buses and their routes. A trip to Sliema from Bugibba bus station now takes longer as the number 12 (a bendy bus) can no longer follow the old route down the narrow shopping street to the seafront terminus. Plus, this route now continues on to Valletta so there’s no being able to hop back on the bus at the same place you got off – unless you want to go to Valletta, that is!

Our trip to Marsaxlokk meant a number 12 to Valletta followed by jumping on the number 81 (from bay 11 on the day we travelled), which meant the whole journey was around 2 hours. The route back took nearer 3 hours, which was longer than it took for us to fly from Cyprus to Luqa airport :-(

It is possible to take the X3 Express route and change at Paola but we weren’t sure how often the 2 buses meet up as during our trip back and forth, we hadn’t seen the buses cross paths….. Maybe for another time when the weather is more pleasant!

So at the moment, Arriva buses aren’t really our favourite mode of transport :-( I think for some of the shorter routes, they could have kept some of the traditional buses – particularly as the tourists do enjoy the old “charabancs”.

We did like Marsaxlokk through. This was our first visit….. I’ve put some photos on my flickr account from Qawra, Valletta bus station, Marsaxlokk and our 2 Harbours cruise (plus short video) here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cypruspictures/sets/72157629502785783/


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