Sunday, June 6, 2010

Streetcar Sunday - Floriana, Malta

The Republic of Malta is an archipelago in the Mediterranean. It is well known for its many world heritage sites, including amazing megalithic temples that are the oldest free-standing structures in Europe. For a couple hundred years, the Knights of Malta ruled over the archipelago. That was until Napoleon came through and took over in a sneaky and underhanded way. He asked for safe harbor to resupply his ships, but then turned his guns on his hosts. Do not invite Napoleon over for dinner.

The Maltese were able to drive the French out with some assistance from Great Britain, Naples, and Sicily. Malta then became part of the British Empire, but later became independent. This history is very brief because we need to get on to the business of Maltese streetcars (and buses), which is also somewhat colorful.

This card above shows a square in the town of Floriana, which is located just outside of Malta's capital city, Valletta.  As you can see, the tram has no doors or windows and limited protection from the weather. There was also seating upstairs on the second deck, but passengers had to sit down up there, as standing could interfere with low wires and cause electrocution. People traveling to and from markets often transported live chickens and rabbits on the tram, which operated between 1904 and 1929, when they were replaced by buses.

Malta not only has special buses, but also some very special bus drivers. There's a reason that there are so many Youtube videos of Malta buses; it's because they have a fleet of beautiful (in my opinion) vintage buses, and because their drivers operate those buses with a certain flair.

Malta is also densely populated and has some severe traffic congestion problems. In 2008,  the government hired a consultant to address the transportation issues and come up with a solution to Malta's transportation woes. The result was a recommendation to increase frequency, quality, and variety of service, re-introduce trams, and create a public transportation system that is competitive with the automobile.  A number of other reforms were proposed, including new buses, reduced work shifts for drivers, and incentives for frequent riders. Bus drivers attending the public meetings reacted negatively to the proposals. Here's an excerpt from a Times of Malta report:

At one point the meeting became rowdy when a slide with a few pictures of modern buses that will replace the old orange buses appeared on screen.
The bus drivers started shouting at the top of their voices that they were the only ones who knew what being a public transport operator really meant.
"You have no experience in public transport," a red-faced bus driver yelled, to loud applause from his colleagues.
One operator said being a bus driver was a difficult job and all his family had to pitch in. His 13-year-old son cleaned the inside of his father's bus after he finished his homework while his 20-year-old son washed the bus from the outside.

On the other hand, passengers seem to be less than thrilled with the current service, so let's hope that some reforms can be enacted. Here are a few links to Youtube videos of the Malta buses:
Malta Buses
Malta Bus Driver


  1. Liebe Christine,
    ich habe dutzende von tollen Postkartenb verpasst und hunderte von posts.
    Ich komme mit dem lesen nicht mehr nach.
    Aber ich bin jetzt wieder da und versprech dir regelmäßig vorbei zu schauen.
    Danke für deinen lieben Kommentar.
    Ich wünsch dir einen schönen Sonntag, bis bald in alter Frische

  2. Ach, den Platz in Malta kenn ich übrigens. Das ist in Valetta, da war ich schon mal. Das sieht heute noch genau so aus.

  3. Beautiful colors, and the whole light and shadow in the scene gives a sense of a hot sun beating down. Gorgeous.

  4. The apparently suicidal pedestrians in these street car shots never cease to amaze me...

  5. I remember visiting Malta a few years ago and been captivated by the buses. That joy was partially neutralised when I finally took a fairly lengthy ride on one of them. Their suspension is as antique as their frameworks and the Maltese roads can be challenging to say the least. Smashing card by the way.



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