Thursday 21 October 2021

Fuel for thought

We are rapidly reaching a stage in Malta where it is going to be too expensive to run a car and we are going to be forced to rethink our means of transportation whether we like it or not.

With the latest increase in fuel, so appropriately timed for April Fool’s Day, the joke is really now on us. Because it’s not just the fact that 30 Euros worth of petrol doesn’t take you very far these days, but it’s also because from the time we buy our first car, it’s just a money guzzler.  By the time you pay it off, which is around five years on an average salary, and you breathe a sigh of relief that your monthly hire purchase standing order can now be closed, you will find another kind of “standing order” waiting to take its place.  For, inevitably, your vehicle will now start to develop a myriad of engine problems ensuring that you will be visiting your local mechanic far more often than you would wish.

That’s without mentioning all the disturbing noises your shaft and suspension make, after having been subjected to just one too many potholes on the roads which Transport Malta likes to remind us it has resurfaced just for our driving pleasure.  The tyres, if they are anything like mine, have  all had to be changed.

Of course, the reality is that everyone is heavily reliant on their car because if you have more than one destination in a given day, any other means of transport is simply not feasible, even in this country which is the size of a large town.  If you have to do the school run and ferry children back and forth to various after school activities, for example, then a car is crucial.

Yet, having said that, there are instances where car pooling is possible but is still not being utilised enough.  I often see a number of parents waiting in their respective cars for their kids outside of schools, Muzew, or a football pitch, for example, and wonder why these parents cannot form some kind of system between themselves, especially if they all come from the same area?  You don’t have to literally live on the same street, but surely there is someone who lives in your vicinity or on the way?

University is another place where car pooling is still not being promoted enough – perhaps the new KSU council can take a break from gloating about their “sweet taste of victory” to organise an awareness campaign among students.   I cannot believe that among all these thousands of students it is that difficult to find another person who lives in your town/village to share a ride (and petrol costs) with. Just think about it: if every student finds a driving buddy, you’ve already halved the number of cars on campus right there. Not to mention traffic congestion, pollution and the stress of rush hour.

I know this will be met with the usual moan that, “our lectures are not at the same time every day, and I don’t want to have to wait around for someone else to get a ride home”, but I would think a little inconvenience is a small price to pay when compared to the real costs of rising petrol prices.

If you work with a large company and you don’t use your car except to drive to and from work, then surely, you can sit down with a few of your like-minded colleagues  and work out a shared system? There are a couple of workplaces which have already put this into effect, and no one seems to have suffered from an acute attack of “I want my own car” withdrawal symptoms yet.

We have come to a point where we need to seriously consider car pooling on a national scale, because apart from the expense of petrol, the island has simply run out of space. There is no more room for yet another car park, and our roads are clogged with cars carrying just one driver – who is  exasperated, stressed and on the verge of committing road rage.  Daily traffic accidents, ranging from bumper to bumper collisions, to bricks falling from a badly loaded truck onto a car,  simply compound an already chaotic situation.

It’s certainly not going to help matters to have this anger exacerbated when we stop to fill ‘er up and find out how much it is going to cost us to fill up our tanks.

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