Monday morning. You wake up at 5 am to rush to catch the 6 am ferry in Mgarr. If everything goes well, the ferry arrives at Cirkewwa at 6:25 am. You then rush to catch the X300 bus which leaves at 6:33 am. If traffic is light you will be at Valletta’s City Gate terminus at 7:42 am. If you do not manage to catch the X300, then it will have to be route 42, which the Public Transport website says will bring you to Valletta at 8:01 am, but we all know what traffic can be at this time of day. You rush to the office, after a commute that lasted anything between 1 hour 45 minutes or 2 hours. Your manager scoffs at you coming it, pointing to his watch. “The Gozitan is late again”, he murmurs.
At 5:00 pm, while your manager gives you the usual “shirker” jibe, you sprint out of the office. You somehow catch the 5:09 pm X300 bus. If luck is on your side, it lands you in Cirkewwa at 6:22 pm. From the bus you glimpse the 6:15 pm ferry leaving the harbour and curse your stars as you do every working day. The next ferry is at 6:45 pm, and by 7:10 pm you are back at Mgarr harbour. If you rush, you might just manage to do a quick grocery shop before dinner. You have three hours before you must head to bed, or else tomorrow it will be difficult to wake up for the commute.
Five days of your life every week: between 1,050 minutes and 1,200 minutes commuting. Over the year, over 62,000 minutes. A month and a half a year. One eighth of your year spent on public transport.
Then one day, something happens. You catch a ferry at 6:45 am and by 7:30 am you are in Valletta. It took 45 minutes without constant worrying about catching the X300. You arrive at the office 15 minutes before your manager who starts making excuses about how traffic made him delay. That afternoon you catch a ferry at 4:45 pm and by 5:30 pm you are already in Mgarr. Before at that time, you would have been stuck in the X300 somewhere in Pembroke. Instead, you are now starting up your car and driving to the greengrocer at the corner of your street, instead of rushing to one of the few supermarkets which are open after 7:00 pm. He greets you with “You were on leave today?”. And with a smile you answer, “No. I am living a normal life now.”
The fast ferry means that now instead of 1,200 minutes commuting every week, you spend a mere 450 minutes. Your commute has been cut nearly by two-thirds. You now will spend half a month commuting and so have a whole month of time back.
Every day the fast ferry gives 2 hours of life back to those who commute between Malta and Gozo. Over a year, the amount of time saved travelling is more than double these workers’ annual leave entitlement. This is surely the effective work-life balance measure introduced for a group of people in our country.
Over a year, the amount of time saved travelling is more than double these workers’ annual leave entitlement.
These workers will now not face a daily conflict with their manager about arriving late or not wanting to have meetings late in the day. If they stay an extra hour at work, it will not mean they will arrive home in complete darkness. If they stay out a bit longer during a working day, they will not have to worry about how they will manage to wake up at 5 am. They will not have to delay all their chores and activities to the weekend, as commuting takes all their life most other days. They will be able to enjoy their families, have a social life while still doing well in their career.
For many, the fast ferry may be an interesting new option to travel to Gozo. But for thousands of Gozitan workers the fast ferry is a complete life-changer. Something that they have been dreaming of for years. Something that makes them feel normal again.
This is however just the beginning. Winter will come, and this link between the two islands will start to be disrupted. Gozo cannot remain without a permanent link. The fast ferry is just a small step on the path to improve the life of Gozo residents and ensure they enjoy the new prosperity they desire. The final step will always remain the establishment of a permanent link.