The venerable Maltese bus service to be updated

  TopCat® 16:57 PM 23 Jun 11

The news that Malta is to update their bus fleet is not going down too well with some islanders, including me. Tickets here!

I have visited this historic Mediterranean island on several occasions over the years and have remained fascinated by their ageing transport arrangements. Many of their buses were bought from Britain as our road transport companies modernised and sold off old stock. Some of them dated right back to the early fifties and it was a great pleasure for me to see them busily and efficiently plying their trade every day of the week. Sunday travel demanded, then, a penny extra on all fares for the Church!

I remember our crowd leaving our hotel one time and standing on the pavement waiting for a bus into Valletta - the central hub for the whole bus service. We were joined a few minutes later by a little local fellow carrying a millboard. Asking where we wanted to go, he then told us the fare and asked for the money. I thought this was a con at first, but the bus arrived and he and the conductor spoke to each other. Realising the guy was a sort of 'inspector' I happily paid up the fares and climbed aboard to enjoy a nostalgic trip into town.

As night began to fall we arrived back at the bus terminus and waited for our connection. Another tiny chap arrived and asked our destination. He then spoke to the driver of a bus just arriving who quickly changed his destination board and beckoned us aboard. A comfortable ride back to the hotel for a shower and then a fine dinner with good friends and family.

I couldn't praise the Maltese bus service enough for their friendliness, kindness and efficiency. I hope it remains so today. TC.

  minilite 17:38 PM 23 Jun 11

What a shame,I used to love those old green buses,they reminded me of the old country buses i used to ride on ,but i suppose thats progress for you

  minilite 17:38 PM 23 Jun 11

What a shame,I used to love those old green buses,they reminded me of the old country buses i used to ride on ,but i suppose thats progress for you

  Bapou 17:39 PM 23 Jun 11

In the eighties we paid our one and only visit to Malta for a 7 day holiday. We used this bus 'service' quite often, it took some getting used to being elbowed out of the way boarding by some determined elderly lady. The idea of being first in the queue mattered not one jot!

Stopping en route to pick up other people, it's also a bit of a shock to see elderly women make the sign of the cross when boarding. It must work, we arrived safely every time.

Happy memories.

  john bunyan 18:09 PM 23 Jun 11

I first visited Malta just before Suez in 1956, and was stationed there after Operation Musketeer at RMTC Ghijn Tuffieha (Now Golden Bay) for nearly a year. Since then I have been back quite a few times both for both military and holiday visits. The buses were always iconic, with their little shrines nesr the driver, and the passengers crossing themselves as the bus passed the numerous churches and roadside shrines. Also back then, bikinis were, regrettably, banned. I shall miss the old buses, but the island these days is, I hear more or less taken over by Club 18 - 30 types. I like the north of the island best, and if anyone knows a quieter part I may go again.

  daz60 19:04 PM 23 Jun 11

I still love watching old black and white movies which show public transport as it was.These buses are classics and should still be allowed to operate,unfortunately the environmentalists and that overly used word "progress" suggests otherwise. It is a replay of the debate over our own iconic bus the Route-master,i kind of miss driving them,but these days icons are best left to museums it seems.

  john bunyan 22:44 PM 23 Jun 11

Forum Member. Thanks, I did think of the Ta'Cenc hotel. I used to dive near Commino and in Gozo. It is just that I know Malta itself so well and I miss the old days - I suppose most Med Islands are the same. I will seriously consider it. I well remember the old ladies making lace outside houses at Victoria and other towns on Gozo.There was a hotel on Commino but it is too small an island and would be claustrophobic. Hope your wife's hip is ok now.

  TopCat® 23:45 PM 23 Jun 11

Please feel free to reminisce all you want. It is good to read your stories about your stay on these islands. I wondered if Bingalau had dropped anchor in Valletta harbour at all! Probably got banned if he ever did !! :o)

We visited Gozo on each occasion we spent time on Malta and was surprised at the amount of building going on there. Much of the construction was made from those beautiful sandstone blocks cut from the nearby quarries. I was told that each village tried to outdo the other when it came to building and adorning their churches. There was also the factual event where a German or Italian bomb burst through a village church roof and fell to the stone floor without exploding? I think that church was on Gozo, if memory serves me right.

We thoroughly enjoyed our stay on the islands and could be going again later this year. TC.

  Condom 00:24 AM 24 Jun 11

It wasn't just the buses that were great as the cars were also fantastic. It was like going back to the 50's and 60's seeing all the old models still driving around quite happily. The only other place I have seen anything like it was in the Philipines where they also liked to decorate their transport in vivid colours. I can certainly understand the reason for the change as the buses were getting very smokey in a very congested city. Even Bangkok got rid of all its old Mercedes Green buses last year for the same reason. Very sad but better for the public.

  john bunyan 13:19 PM 24 Jun 11

TopCat. THe church to which you refer was the Rotunda at Mosta, in Malta see here: I remember the two big clocks where one had the correct time, and the other was wrong to confuse the devil. I have far too many memories to relate here, but they include a lot of diving,including with the Fleet Clearance Divers, parachuting into St Paul's Bay, canoeing round Malta, surveying all the beaches for landings, climbing cliffs at Gharr Lapsi near Blue Grotto etc.(Sadly helping to collect remains of a crashed Sea Hawk pilot in '57) Sorry to swing the lamp ahead of Bingalu!!. Off Xlendi in Gozo there are amphorae on the sea bed but at extreme depth for air diving - about 80m. A great place for rabbit stew, but the local wine - we called it "screech" is to be avoided.Was stationed at various times at HMS St Angelo, RNAS Hal Far, St Andrews, etc.

  Woolwell 14:57 PM 24 Jun 11

Memories - I haven't been to Malta for about 40 years. The driving then was some of the worst in the world with the bus drivers being some of the main culprits. They all had a shrine in the front and they seemed to think that it protected them.

Memories of Sliema and Luqa plus Grand Harbour which was badly polluted then. Sailors who fell in returning from shore had to visit the sickbay for treatment.


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