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.
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!