The Malta Bus or Xarabank

 Paul Xuereb (pxue1@hotmail.com)

 

The Maltese archipelago is situated in the centre of the Mediterranean, just South of Sicily. The archipelago is made up of a number of very small islands of which only the two largest islands Malta and Gozo are inhabited. The total population is around 400,000.

The main mode of public transport is by buses although there are also taxis, coaches and mini-buses which can be rented. The Maltese call the bus xarabank.

The first bus, called the motor omnibus started operating in 1904.  In 1905, The Malta Motor Omnibus and Transport Syndicate Ltd. was set up, however its service was rather restricted. In 1920, the Cottonera Motor Bus Co. was set up and others soon followed so that by  1930, the total number of buses had already reached 385. Due to intense competition, some companies had to be liquidated and many bus drivers became owners. In 1931, the Traffic Control Board was set up to control and organize the public transport system. In 1977, the route buses were organized into one group called the Public Transport Association in order to offer a more efficient transport system, which still operates the service to date. The Association is run by the drivers themselves. 

 In Gozo, there is a separate bus service run by the Gozo Public Transport.  The first bus started operating in Gozo in 1925. Since Gozo is smaller than Malta, the number of buses operating is smaller and even have a different color.

 Most of the buses used in the local system are very old, however they are full of character. Very few buses are exactly alike except perhaps for the ones imported during the 80s. Unfortunately, most of these buses would have to be replaced by modern buses. 

 The transport system in Malta is very simple. The main bus terminus is located at Valletta, the capital city of Malta. All buses run from this terminus to all the other towns and villages. Each route is assigned a number and the buses stop to pick up more people on the way from the numerous bus stops. The buses then return to Valletta from the different destinations. There are a few direct buses which leave Valletta to particular destinations.  A number of local councils have introduced some form of public transport within the locality. However, this is still on a trial bases.

 In Gozo, the system is similar to the one used in Malta. The main bus terminus is located in Victoria, which is the capital city of Gozo, and all buses leave to the different villages from here and then return. There are also some town to town routes.

 Over the years, different types of bus tickets were used. In recent years, some advertisements started appearing on tickets (as well as on the buses). The present bus fare is of 15c and 18c for longer destinations. Children pay 10c. The special service, which operates from selected destinations after normal hours, costs 50c and non-stop tickets cost 40c.  The Public Transport Association has also introduced one, three, five and seven day tickets. In Gozo, a different type of bus ticket is used which costs 15c.

 Paul Xuereb

Transport Tickets From Malta

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